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The Christian effort to confront to- 
day's problems is deeply indebted to 
Jean Danielou. His success in bring- 
ing to bear on modern man's concerns 
the insight and understanding of a 
fully realized Christianity is well 
known. It is the wisdom of this world 
of ours the truth of our science and 
our poetry, of our ideologies and our 
freedom, of our technology, history, 
and faith with which he is concerned. 

He approaches all these aspects of 
our contemporary civilization as an 
intelligent realist for to Father 
Danielou, intelligence "consists in 
knowing reality as it is." All the 
genuine excellences of our society are 
re-viewed in the light of that truth 
which was folly to the Greeks, and 
seen to be good though in need of com- 
pletion. It is through a fully realized 
faith that they can be fulfilled and 
perfected, with the redeeming }f truth 
in the individual and in society. 


.WAI ~'^N - 9 1385 

/ - 


Jean Danielou, SJ. 


translated by W. J. Kerrigan 


Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 62-18774 

Helicon Press, Inc. 
1120 N. Caivert Street 
Baltimore 2, Maryland 

Copyright 1962 by Helicon Press, Inc. 

All Rights Reserved 

Originally published in French under the title of Scandaleuse Verite, 
copyright 1961 by Librairie Artheme Fayard. 

Nihil Obstaf. EDWARD A. CERNY, S.S., S.T.D. 
Censor Librorum 

Imprimatur. ^ LAWRENCE J. SHEHAN, D.D. 
Archbishop of Baltimore 
August 28, 1962 

The Nibil Obstat and Imprimatur are official declarations that a 
book or pamphlet is free of doctrinal or moral error. No implication 
is contained therein that those who have granted the Nzhil Obstat 
and Imprimatur agree with the opinions expressed. 



These pages witness to a confidence in the excellence of 
human intelligence created by God to know the truth as it 
confronts the despair which is the attitude of so many thinkers 
today, even Christians. They also constitute an act of faith in 
the worthwhileness of existence and in man's ability to find 
happiness despite a world which seeks in its misery justification 
for revolt. They attest the worth of the created world and in 
particular they affirm the worth of the civilization which is 
developing before our very eyes. But at the same time these 
pages insist that the only humanism is one that accords to 
adoration a dimension as essential as the desire to master the 
world. They bear witness that while man may be destined for 
happiness, he has been injured by sin, and can be healed orily 
by the Cross. 

At a time when the world is searching for the insights of a 
new humanism, when a generation is arising eager to build a 
better city with the means offered by modern science, the 
ambition of these pages is to express these aspirations, and to 
give them some direction. Above all I want to say to young 
Christians that they should not allow themselves to be over- 
awed by the false prestige of modern-day doctrines, whose 
murkiness masks the brightness of eternal truth. The shocking 
bankruptcy of Marxist optimism and of the philosophies of 
despair as well has nothing about it that should impress them. 
The world belongs to those who will conquer it. And it is to 


this conquest that these pages are an invitation, in the sense 
that they may give confidence to the Christian youth engaged 
in this mission which the world has given them, and where they 
must be witnesses of God and, because they witness to God, 
saviors of men. 


Preface Hi 

I The Scandal of Truth 1 

II Truth and Liberty 21 

III The Myth of Unhappiness 35 

IV Poetry and Truth 49 

V What Is Your Vision of the World? .... 61 

VI Foundations of the Faith 75 

VII The Mystery of Life and Death 97 

VIII Truth and Unity 105 

IX Christianity and Technological Civilization . . 115 

X Truth and Society ......... 129 

XI Truth and the Individual . 141 

by the same author 

The Dead Sea Scrolls and Primitive Christianity 
Holy Pagans of the Old Testament 
The Presence of God 




IT WAS by no means only yesterday that truth became embarrass- 
ing. The early apologist Justin Martyr had no hesitation in 
seeing the trial of Socrates as a prefiguration of the trial of Jesus. 
Witnesses to truth have always galled the skeptical and the 
cunning. The "inhabitants of earth" seek to remove such em- 
barrassments, and seeing "their corpses finally stretched on the 
streets of the great city, which is called in figurative language 
Sodom and Egypt, the inhabitants of earth turn to merry-making 
and exchanging gifts; for the witnesses to truth had been a 
torment to the inhabitants of the earth." In fact, there is no 
greater stumbling block to the powerful in their schemes for 
domination, and to the clever in their desire for self-sufficiency. 
Thus we need not be astonished that truth has ever been hated 
by the powerful, and disdained among the clever. But eventually 
the sense of the truth is crippled under so many assaults, rude or 
subtle, even in the souls of those who profess it. They allow 
themselves to be intimidated by the kind of interrogation which 
alternates mockery with menaces. They agree to relegate truth 
to the dark corners of their sacristies or to the hidden places in 
their hearts and surrender to their adversaries vast areas of 
intellectual activity and of civilization. At this precise moment 


of time our times nothing is more seriously ailing than in- 
telligence, nothing is less loved than truth. And so we must 
speak o them. 

When we speak of truth, the hackles rise on many men of our 
day, and we can feel a defense-reaction rising in them. It is 
this reaction that must first be explained. How is it that to 
affirm the existence of truth seems to be tantamount to dogma- 
tism and intolerance? This kind of reaction has various causes. 
It derives in the first place from the development of the scientific 
spirit. The crisis of the modern intellectual has been above all a 
metaphysical one, and to a great extent it still is. The certitude 
that ancient and medieval man thought to find in evident first 
principles and the deductions necessarily derived from them, the 
man of the eighteenth century believed he could expect from the 
progress of the physical sciences and of mathematics. 

Many minds today still believe in this possibility. Without 
any doubt it remains one of the greatest obstacles to meta- 
physical knowledge and to acceptance of the faith. A mind that 
habitually associates certitude with scientific procedures is dis- 
concerted by the techniques proper to metaphysics and to faith, 
and is tempted to deny them the rigor that alone elicits the un- 
reserved adherence of the intellect. This kind of mind is willing 
to recognize in such metaphysical or religious affirmations the 
expression of sentiments to be treated with respect. But it will 
refuse to recognize their power to compel assent as scientific 
demonstrations do. This overwrought confidence in science in 
the possibility that it can solve the last riddles of human destiny 
and free man from his last shackles is still the state of mind of 
a considerable number of our contemporaries. 

However, we no longer encounter this scientism among scien- 
tists. Today the difficulty brought up by the scientific mind on 
this question of the attainability of truth is rather the reverse. 

The Scandal of Truth 3 

It is less a kind o false dogmatism than a deep-rooted agnos- 
ticism. If there is one thing the scientist of today is aware of, it is 
the constantly provisional character of scientific systems. These 
systems are nothing but working hypotheses designed to express 
the most closely approximate interpretations of a body of known 
facts. And the discovery of new facts always opens up the 
possibility of challenging them. Now the scientist is tempted to 
think of this kind of knowledge as the only kind, to think that 
the day of dogmatic statement is definitely over and that this 
sense of the relative is one of the achievements of the modern 
mind. The notion of certitude is replaced by the notion of ap- 
proximation, and an emphasis on research takes the place of an 
orientation towards truth. 

A second reason for this crisis of truth is the low value that 
has come to be placed on men's word. If the scientific method 
of observation and experimentation is the normal way of attain- 
ing knowledge of the material world, personal testimony is the 
basis of all knowledge of moral realities. Our knowledge of 
other men depends on testimony, and so, ultimately, does our 
knowledge of the hidden Godhead. Testimony is a legitimate 
way of acquiring certitude, and even a superior way, since by 
testimony we can reach the very highest realities. It has its own 
method, too, principally concerned with the confidence to be 
placed in witnesses, which is the essential question of a person's 
word as truth. 

But one of the most characteristic traits of our age is mistrust 
of another's word. And it must be acknowledged that this mis- 
trust seems largely justified. The solemn word has been so much 
abused by the modern world as no longer to inspire trust. It is 
because men of today have been duped that they have become 
mistrustful. Every assertion puts them on guard. They have 
been duped by political propaganda. The finest words have 


covered the worst propaganda. The words of nationalism and 
socialism served as a screen for Hitlerite undertakings. Com- 
munist oppression labels itself democracy and pursues its plan 
of world domination by presenting itself as a messenger of 
peace. And the liberty boasted by the Free World is unfortu- 
nately often the mask for the defense of privilege. 

In this sense Raymond Aron was right in showing that ours 
has been the age of the end of ideologies. Rather than to fine 
words emptied of their meaning, the young people of today are 
attaching themselves to the concrete realities of private life, 
of scientific equipment, of economic research. And political 
life being the pre-eminent domain of the relative and of 
the contingent, it is no doubt salutary to purify it in this 
way, as Jeanne Hirsch said, of every impure mixture of the 
absolute. This weariness with secular myths that transfer reli- 
gious aspirations into domains that do not belong to them is 
quite legitimate; but, here again, in the case of many of our 
contemporaries, it is extended to whatever is proclaimed as true 
in any domain whatsoever, and in particular to assertions con- 
nected with the domain where truth has its home the domain 
of the supreme values of existence and of the revelation of the 
living God. 

There is such a thing as naive trust, and of this the man of 
today seems to have been quite cured. And gullibility is a dis- 
order just as well cured, certainly. But at the other extreme is 
the inability to exercise considered trust even when justified by 
all the circumstances. And this inability seems as serious a dis- 
order. Even among believers there often remains something 
deep down not completely cured of doubt, a certain inability 
to trust someone other than one's self which reveals some 
pathology, a radical weakness* a powerlessness to leave off 
questioning and reach the stage of assent. And, of course, there 
is the cautiousness about trusting another for fear of being 

The Scandal of Truth 5 

deceived. But there is also the dread of trusting another for 
fear of losing one's own autonomy. And withholding one's 
trust in circumstances where trust is fully justified is as un- 
reasonable as rejecting evidence when it is overwhelming. That 
there are many lies does not mean that there is no truth. 

A third reason for the crisis of the sense of truth in the 
present-day world is to be found in a shift of perspectives, 
whereby the subjective viewpoint of sincerity is substituted for 
the objective viewpoint of truth. This seems to be one of the 
most characteristic features of modern feelings in these matters. 
More importance is likely to be attached to the sincerity with 
which a man lives a faith than to that faith's objective value. 
We are not denying that every sincere man deserves respect. 
But the sincerity with which a cause is held is really no argument 
for it. The worst causes have known fanatics whose sincerity 
has been beyond all suspicion. One can respect a man while 
detesting the ideas that he represents. The fact that there are 
sincere Communists does not justify communism. Yet such is 
the thinking too often met today. 

Examples of it could be pointed out in many fields. For the 
idea of an objective morality, which consists in the conformity 
of one's actions to God's will, there is substituted an individual 
ethics, consisting of the conformity of one's actions with one's 
own view of things. This is what characterizes the ethics 
proposed by most contemporary writers, whether it be Malraux 
or Montherlant, Camus or Sartre. And it was Gide's ethics 
before them. The only duty is to realize one's self completely, 
whether in the line of the will to power, or in revolutionary 
activity, or in the night of contemplation. Malraux's La condi- 
tion humaine is a characteristic novel with this attitude. Everyone 
makes his own rules for himself, and all that is required of him 
is to conform to them. 

The same attitude is to be found in the area of religion. 


More importance is attached to the genuineness of religious 
feeling than to the content of the faith to which one adheres. It 
matters little, you will be told, whether you are Buddhist, 
Moslem, or Christian; the main thing is that you be sincere 
in your belief. And here again there is a grain of truth in the 
argument; and it is true that men acting in good faith will be 
judged on the basis of their own lights. But this does not 
change the fact that a man can be in good faith and still be 
wrong, and that the presence of religious men in every religion 
does not make all religions equal. And the subjective consider- 
ation of the quality of religious feeling cannot outweigh the 
primary importance of the truth of what the mind adheres to. 

Finally, we shall name one more feature of the modern 
world: the substitution of the criterion of effectiveness for the 
criterion of truth. We are not speaking simply of the warped 
view that the worth of ideologies is to be measured only in 
terms of their power to move the masses. This is again a 
matter of propaganda techniques, already mentioned; they are 
always efficient, unfortunately, but, as we have remarked, people 
in our day have begun to detect the cynicism behind them. 
What I wish to speak of is something that lies deeper, namely, 
the greater emphasis placed on the effective results of an action 
than on the principles of that action. Here again, this attitude 
has some justification. Too great a spectacle has been made of 
principles admirable in themselves, but breaking down in prac- 
tice. People today judge by results. This without any doubt 
is one of the reasons for the attraction exercised by the "people's 
democracies" on undeveloped countries. 

A Christian freely admits that truth is inseparable from 
effectiveness. Origen saw the transformation wrought by grace 
in men's souls as the great proof of the divine truth of 
Christianity. And St. Paul before him had called the Gospel 

The Scandal of Truth 1 

"an instrument of God's power (dynamis), that brings sal- 
vation" (Rom. 1:16). By the same token, a Christian will 
admit that the Christian world has not influenced civilization 
as much as it might have this not through a defect of Christian 
belief, which involves an inescapable requirement of charity 
(and of social charity), but because of the unfaithfulness of 
Christians. But, from the point of view that has our attention 
here, the danger is that of a primacy of action over doctrine, 
when action should be the fruit of truth, and charity the work 
of faith. This is unquestionably what has brought too many 
present-day Christians, plunged headlong into activity without 
sufficient preparation, without thought of what their activity is 
based on, to swallow many an erroneous proposition and to 
become the easy prey of Marxism. 

* * 

If we turn now to the Bible, either the Old Testament or the 
New, we find ourselves confronted with an entirely different 
world, one where truth occupies the place of preponderant 
importance, and presents a very well defined content. Truth 
consists in the mind's giving to things the importance they have 
in reality. Now, the thing that is sovereignly real Is God. 
Truth, then, must consist in the mind's acknowledging God's 
sovereign reality. This reality is that of God as he is in himself. 
Truth must consist in acknowledging God's infinite majesty and 
holiness. This is also the reality of God as expressed in his 
work. Truth, therefore, must consist in the intelligence's being 
conformed to the divine intelligence, to the divine sense of 
existence. It will consist in the will's entering into the ways of 
God, co-operating with his designs, and aiding him to accom- 
plish his work in us and in the world. 


But, in actuality, for the majority of men what is most real is 
the world of their material existence; and what is most unreal 
is the world of God. This is a fact so enormous, a subversion 
so radical and so world-engrossing that we are scarcely aware 
of it, and what is sin is taken for nature. This in particular is 
the fundamental character of a humanism which is persuaded of 
its self-sufficiency and takes the religious dimension to be a 
kind of optional accessory, entirely a matter of taste. In this 
view, there is possible a common ground where atheist and 
Christian humanists can understand each other and which each 
individual can extend into whatever mystical realm suits his 
fancy. For the Bible, in contrast, the religious dimension is the 
measure of man as he really is. The fact of existence puts man 
automatically in relationship with God. Thus it is man himself 
that Christianity defends when it rejects every kind of atheistic 
humanism as a mutilation and as a suicide. 

Thus there is an order of the real where things are ranged 
hierarchically according to their density of existence, their 
weight, what St. Augustine called auctoritas. Truth consists in 
the intelligence's conforming itself to this order. Being intelli- 
gent means simply that. Intelligence does not consist in the 
more or less brilliant performance of the mind. No, it consists 
in knowing reality as it is. That is why for the Bible being 
intelligent means recognizing the sovereign reality of God. Who 
but "the fool says in his heart: There is no God" (Ps. 13:1) . 
This is the complete reverse of what modern man calls intelli- 
gence. For in the biblical view a great intellectual may be 
perfectly stupid, and some poor uneducated woman praying in 
a church infinitely more "intelligent" than he. 

Thus from the biblical perspective what first strikes us when 
we look at the world is this sort of lack of intelligence, this 
fundamental error of judgment whereby men attach so much 

The Scandal of Truth 9 

importance to things which have no importance, to such 
phantoms as money, pleasure, or fame, and none to what has 
importance, namely, God, and his design. And surely if God 
really is complete value, complete holiness, complete perfection, 
and lovable above all things else, there is something very odd in 
his being so little known and so little loved. This radical 
upside-down situation is sin itself, sin in its ontological root, 
on the level of being before coming to the level of action, a sort 
of immense unreason, that world "out of joint" of which 
Hamlet spoke, that "center of wretchedness" which Peguy met 
in his relentless progress and which seemed to him insurmount- 
able, like a hill too steep to climb. How is intelligence to be 
set aright? 

But how, first of all, was such a lack of judgment ever 
possible? It is to precisely this question that we look to the 
Bible and to Christianity for an answer. For, after all, to say 
that sin is a lack of judgment, an error, is to say what was 
known to the philosophers of old. Such, particularly, was 
Plato's idea. To say what we have said thus far is only to 
affirm the belief that the mind was made for being, and that 
the meeting of the two is truth. And this affirmation is proper 
to any sound philosophy. That it is no longer taught by a 
number of our philosophers, that in the exercise of the intelli- 
gence they emphasize exclusively the creative spontaneity of 
the mind, or that they recognize objectivity only on the level of 
economic or biological conditioning this proves only that they 
are not real "philosophers." But why such a subversion can 
exist is the question we must answer. And, here again, it is to 
the Bible that we are led, at the point where the problem of 
truth and error is no longer confined to the area of speculation, 
but touches again the tragic background of the mind's fate at 
the point where intelligence is touched by the mystery of evil. 


And here we reach a distinction of prime importance. For 
Plato, the opposite of truth is error; for the Bible, the opposite 
of truth is a lie. A lie consists in giving an appearance of 
existence to what does not exist; truth consists of detaching 
one's self from appearances in order to adhere to reality. Now, 
for St. John, the devil is the father of lies; "there is no truth 
in him. When he utters falsehood, he is only uttering what is 
natural to him" (8:44). The devil is the great illusionist. He 
prompts us to give importance to what has no importance; he 
clothes with a false glitter what is least substantial; and, con- 
versely, he turns us away from what is surpassingly real. He 
causes us to live in a world of seeming and of shadows. And 
it is the Holy Spirit, in contrast, who endears the things of God 
to us, who banishes falsehood, who leads us to the sovereign 

Thus the domain of intelligence is not excluded from the 
world revealed to us by the Bible, the world of the spiritual 
combat which takes place within man. If there is any doctrine 
which appears constantly and with astonishing continuity 
throughout the tradition of Christian anthropology it is that 
one. The Gospel of St. John is dominated by this conflict 
between the "father of lies" and him who said, "I am the way, 
the truth and the life." The spirituality of the Fathers, from 
Hermas to Athanasius, describes the tendencies of the two 
spirits. And in a later century Loyola was to make this dis- 
tinction the key to spiritual direction. 1 But it was above all 
St. Augustine who showed the close connection between the 
quest for the Truth and conversion of the heart, and described 
the theological infrastructure of the intelligence's destiny. 

x On the philosophical implications of the doctrine of the discernment of 
spirits, see G. Fessard, La dzalectique des exercises spirttttels, pp. 255-305. 

The Scandal of Truth 11 

It is in this light that we may see the real significance of the 
various disorders afflicting modern intelligence as we described 
them a few pages back. Not that they are really so modern. 
St. Augustine described them all through having known them 
all. And which of us does not know them, in the shape of those 
temptations which Christianity teaches us not to ignore, but to 

First, there is curiositas, the insatiable questing of a mind 
which endlessly scrutinizes the visible world and its laws and 
conceives of every reality on the type of what is least real. For 
to judge that everything is relative in the realm of what is 
indeed relative, that is wisdom. But centuries ago Pascal who 
had the right to speak, for he knew what he was speaking of 
detected the error of method in the attempt to apply the spirit 
of geometry to the things of man, or the spirit of astuteness 
to the things of God. For every realm there is a corresponding 
"spirit." No method is exact that leaves this consideration out 
of account. 

Worse yet is the curiositas which makes an object of curiosity 
out of what touches the serious side of life. It would be good 
to study the implications of the word "interesting," so charac- 
teristic of our modern vocabulary, and so apt to usurp the place 
of "true." Thus the pages of some of our magazines shrewdly 
juxtapose the life of the Trappists and the life of call girls; 
liturgy and strip-tease. Perhaps never has man been so curious 
about things religious, and perhaps never so little religious 
himself. The most atheistic countries are delighted to keep up 
inoffensive monasteries that can be shown to visitors, like 
reservations where the last members of some Indian tribe are 
to be found. Modern man is bidden to a perpetual spectacle, 
offered him morning, noon, and night by television, stage, and 
moving pictures. He knows everything. He understands every- 


thing. But in between hangs a shimmering veil which disguises 

Doubt is still another thing. It is that radical reserve which 
enables the mind to lend itself to everything, on condition that 
it give itself to nothing. But there is no doubt about it that one 
sees faith in another's word as a secret menace to one's desire 
to be one's own master. It is certain that trusting another means 
taking one's stand on some one else's intelligence and embracing 
as true what one has not decided for one's self. And it will be 
admitted that this renunciation of the reason may be reasonable. 
But it implies a recognition by the mind of its own limits, an 
acceptance of dependence, a surrender of my absolute sover- 
eignty. It is certain that, on the level of testimony, knowledge is 
paired with love, for it is based on the excellence acknowledged 
in another, which justifies the confidence I place in him. But 
this confidence impinges on a certain deep-seated selfishness in 
me. And so once more we find that the seemingly most specu- 
lative exercise of the intelligence has a moral substructure. 

And modern sincerity? It consists essentially in conformity 
to one's self. It means submitting to law, but a law that every- 
one decides upon for himself. It gives generous scope for 
self-esteem, since no one decides upon what does not suit his 
humor. The acknowledgment of a truth which does not come 
from me, but which is imposed upon me not as an exterior 
compulsion, either, but as an excellence which commands my 
unconditional homage this is infinitely more inhibiting. If the 
man of today rejects Christian truth, I can never be made to 
believe that this is through fear for his comfort, but because 
this truth intrudes Another into his life and because his life is 
thus at the mercy of that Other. 

But when it comes right down to it, there is more genuine- 
ness in bearing witness to the truth, even when it condemns me, 

The Scandal of Truth 13 

than in refusing to recognize it so that I can maintain a good 
conscience. Rejecting objective truth amounts to a subtle will- 
ingness to set my face against God. For and St. Augustine 
witnesses to this point, too the absolute of the truth which 
enlightens my intelligence is the absolute in the first instance 
of the Word of God. 

And anyone who takes a candid view, and is not the dupe of 
his own rationalizations, even when he amuses himself with 
them, sees very well that the rejection of the truth comes down 
to the choice of self-affirmation and rejection of affirmation of 
God. For I know well enough that acknowledging what is, 
submitting to the real, means acknowledging something that I 
have not decided for myself and therefore already saying yes to 
God. Accepting happiness automatically means giving thanks. 
That is why modern man has a taste for unhapplness. Im- 
placable fate enables one to blame God and to justify revolt. 
That is why for Sartre and Malraux, for Montherlant and for 
Camus, fate must be implacable, and the world absurd. Granted 
that, then my liberty flares momentarily like a lone meteorite 
in infinite nothing. Similarly, to accept the truth, to acknowl- 
edge what is, is tantamount to saying yes to God. That is why 
the mind that insists on being utterly self-dependent is com- 
placent in falsehood, which is the one thing that an individual 
has totally at his own disposition. He chooses nothingness 
through a desire to receive nothing from anyone else: ''This at 
least is mine, all mine," Riviere said of sin. 

On the level, finally, of effectiveness, the Satanic face of the 
rejection of truth is finally unmasked. So long as it was only 
a question of sincerity, my determination to be answerable only 
to law of my own making concerned, finally, me alone. But 
on the level of the pragmatic where does the sanction come 
from? What becomes the norm and law now is the will of a 


collectivity, called self-awareness of the proletariat, genius of 
the race, impulse of history. In other words, what we get now 
instead of acknowledgment of a sovereign Law by which all 
will be judged, individuals and society, is the arbitrary decision 
of one particular will, which decrees good and evil, and against 
which there is no longer any appeal. It is in the name of this 
principle that national interests, or the class struggle, become 
supreme values, finding their justification precisely in their 

Here at the end of the line the perverse roots of the rejection 
of truth are stripped bare. The will to power appears in all its 
inexorableness. What was at first tricked out as an emanci- 
pation now owns itself an escort to slavery. And it is God's 
Law that is now revealed as the only guarantee of liberty. In 
our attempted survey of modern intelligence, whose theological 
roots we have undertaken to show, we have now reached a kind 
of limit, a point where excess itself provokes its contrary. In 
this odyssey of the intelligence, then, perhaps we have reached 
the moment of a righting of the course. 

Let us, in fact, now return to the present-day situation of the 
intelligence. It presents a strange paradox. We find on the one 
hand the men deputed to speak for it, to exhibit it, the pundits 
of the world of ideas, the philosophers. Yet I must say that on 
the whole their attitude towards truth seems to me to justify 
the deep apprehensiveness which I have just expressed. We find 
among them historians well equipped to conduct us through the 
museum of the curiosities of human thought, exhibited like dead 
butterflies under glass. We find among them men artful at 
disabusing they tell us young bourgeois of their naive pre- 

The Scandal of Truth 15 

conceptions, at teaching them to bring everything back into 
question, and, finally, at leaving nothing standing but the 
brilliant play of their own dialectic. We find among them those 
for whom in all seriousness the idea of absolute truth is the 
enemy to be destroyed, its place to be taken by the sense of 
history as represented by the will of the proletariat. 

I shall be told that I am severe, I think not. Of course there 
are exceptions, outstanding exceptions, to what I have been 
saying. And it is also true that meeting a school of thought 
contrary to one's own may serve to force one's mind to recon- 
sider its own positions more critically. But it takes only a few 
minds warped, among the leaders, for irreparable damage to 
be done. And if there is one way in which I think academic 
freedom must be asserted, it is in parents' exercising their right 
to refuse to send their adolescent children to teachers and in 
adolescents' refusing to listen to teachers who threaten to 
destroy youth's most precious possession. Nor, by the way, is 
this to say that Christian teachers are always better. One can 
have faith and be perverted on the level of the intelligence. 
Nor is the case so rare today of those who dissociate their faith 
(which they set up in isolation from all the rest) from their 
intelligence, which they permit to be saturated with all the 
sophisms of their times. 

Now, at the very moment when philosophers have given up 
believing in philosophy, there are other men who are turning 
towards it, men who, precisely because they are in touch with 
reality, are taking seriously what philosophy has to offer. I am 
thinking of scientific circles, where today more than ever men 
find themselves up against the limits of their own disciplines 
and where, on the other hand, the very progress of science and 
of its technical applications is posing problems which science 
itself is insufficient to solve. We have only to read the account 


of the problems of conscience which atomic-research scientists 
feel themselves faced with and we will be well aware of the 
importance of this matter. Because the scientist of today is in 
contact with reality, at the spearhead of progress, and at grips 
with responsibilities, he is actually on the threshold of a 
splendid humanism. But he is waiting for someone to help 
him discover its laws. It is through physics that our age will 
rediscover metaphysics. And that without doubt is what makes 
the work of a Teilhard de Chardin, even with all its de- 
ficiencies, more rich in hope and more promising in the vistas 
it discloses that the work of any number of philosophers bent 
upon the devaluation of the intelligence. 

What is true of scientists is truer still of responsible leaders 
in economic and political life. They are receiving a dramatic 
revelation of the fact that technological solutions are not 
enough. These solutions must rest ultimately upon a concep- 
tion of man. And what this conception is, it is up to others to 
tell them. Faced with the subversion of values represented by 
Marxism, they are asking for someone to show them where the 
values are that can ultimately justify their efforts. It is no 
longer ideological propaganda that they are calling for, but for 
something more profound, namely, for viable bases for a 
human order. In the mighty struggle in which the "people's 
democracies" and the Free World are opposed, it is neither the 
East nor the West that is ultimately at stake, but man himself 
who must be defended. Else of what earthly good are military 
organizations and economic programs? The indispensable thing, 
then, is to find out what man is, and the human person, and 
human liberty. 

But who is to answer these questions? Who is the deputed 
representative of permanent values, the "shepherd of being/' 
as Heidegger put it? The function of the philosopher in the 

The Scandal of Truth 17 

state is beyond measure. He alone appears above suspicion. 
Not that it is required of him to contrive the theory of political 
systems and to make himself their prophet. There is no worse 
comedown for the philosopher than being reduced to justify 
political regimes, which it is his mission, instead, to judge of. 
Such chores we leave to Communist ideologists. The philos- 
opher has as his mission to judge, but not to destroy. He must 
denounce malfeasance by reference to principles. Yet he has 
not this right unless he is the witness to principles. Otherwise 
he is a leaven of destruction. Criticism is not legitimate unless 
it is constructive. One has the right to judge only what one 

Truth here is the opposite of ideology. Ideology takes what 
is purely contingent and turns it into dogmatism. It makes 
absolutes out of economic collectivity or economic liberty. In 
one camp it condemns capitalism as the original sin; in the 
other, it finds the root of all evil in collectivism. It is, in Benda's 
just designation, "the treason of the learned." Men of learning 
are traitors when they applaud government leaders instead of 
daring to remonstrate with them. Truth, in contrast to ideology, 
is the law from which neither princes nor commoners are 
exempt. It is the charter of the Testament, in the name of which 
the Jewish prophet used to denounce the unfaithfulness of the 
people. But he had this right only in so much as he was 
the representative of the truth, and because he believed in 
the truth, and because he was acquainted with the truth. 

At this moment of time, then, there is a divorce between the 
rebirth of the sense of truth among men who are not intellec- 
tuals, or at least not philosophers, and a permanent crisis of the 
sense of truth among numerous intellectuals, philosophers in 
particular. Now, this divorce is a serious matter. For men who 
do not find this sought-for truth among those whose mission it 


is to give it to them will try to find it in dogmatisms which are 
sometimes jerry-built and often do not distinguish between 
truth and ideology. But whose fault is this? We may have 
lately remarked the influence of integrism upon the big brass 
both in industry and in the military. Yet where are those who 
thirst for truth to look for it if the professors of thinking are 
no longer capable of giving it to them? 

The problem is to bring about a reconciliation between the 
intelligence and truth. The divorce is ruinous to both. To the 
truth, for it must not be solely an exterior norm, imposing itself 
from outside upon a mind remaining passive. It is fully truth 
only when it is acknowledged by the mind and embraced as 
truth. If intelligence is something more than mental activity, 
truth is something more than brute reality which comes barging 
in, pure factitiousness of being in the Sartrian mode. Truth is 
the intelligence's grasp of its unison with being, and being's 
transparence to the mind. 

This divorce is ruinous likewise to the intelligence. The 
intelligence has no fulfilment, as we have said, save in the 
knowledge of being. To be intelligent is to know that which 
is. By finding its complaisance in its own empty activity, it 
wastes itself on meaningless arpeggios; and it is not hard to 
understand how, tired of its pretty tricks, many people turn on 
it with a sort of masochistic repudiation and sacrifice it to the 
demands of activity. 

But we believe in the dignity of intelligence. No, prostituted 
though she has been, we shall never repudiate her. Conversely, 
when we ask her to turn again to truth, it is the very opposite 
of a repudiation that we ask of her, for we but ask her to 

The Scandal of Truth 19 

realize her own nature. Truth is no stranger to her. It is 
interior to her. It is her transparence to herself in a light more 
interior to her than herself inttmior mtimo meo, said St. 
Augustine. And it is by being faithful to this light that she 
herself will become once more the light which men need to see 
their way by. 




ONE CHARACTERISTIC which contemporary humanisms have in 
common is their claim that freedom is sufficient unto itself and 
must not be assigned a subordinate place in any order. This 
attitude is by no means confined to philosophical tomes. And 
we meet it in particular in Camus or in the earlier Malraux. But 
the fact remains that its defenders feel that its philosophical 
justification is rooted in phenomenology. Our first task, then, 
will be to inquire whether the phenomenological method as 
such does imply the flat rejection of any ontology. If it does 
not, we shall then have to look to see where the real roots are 
of the humanisms which make human freedom the first and 
only truth. 

Does existential phenomenology necessarily lead to an athe- 
istic stand, in such a way that every representative of that school 
will be necessarily a denier of God? I had the opportunity to 
put this question personally to Maurice Merleau-Ponty, at the 
Geneva "Rencontres Internationales" in 1952, which he and I 
attended. He had delivered a talk which was at once remark- 
able and disquieting; and in the question period which followed 
I asked him whether there could be a Christian existentialism. 



I take his answer from the stenographic notes as printed in the 
minutes of the congress: 

"What I mean to say personally," said he, "is that the Pope 
has reason to condemn existentialism." 

(I have no idea, by the way, where he got this condemnation, 
something new to me.) 

"There are," he went on, "an enormous number of Chris- 
tians who are interested in existentialism as a method, as an 
entrance way, as a vestibule. But as Catholics they can look on 
it only as a vestibule and as an entrance way, and then get back 
as smartly as possible to ontology in the classical sense of the 
word. Now, for me, this is the negation of phenomenology, of 
philosophy. As for those among Christians who are interested, 
in depth, in existentialist phenomenology I think this is an 
inconsistency. One can absolutely not speak of a Christian 
existentialism; I think in fact that this exists and Gabriel 
Marcel," he added, "is in this category but these are individual 
inconsistencies. One cannot be seriously pondering the con- 
tingence of existence and still hold to the Syllabus." 

There, then, is the very clear position of an eminent con- 
temporary philosopher, asserting the incompatibility of a con- 
sistent existentialism and the acceptance of Christian dogmas, 
of which the Syllabus can be considered as furnishing one of the 
expressions. This presents us with the question: Is Merleau- 
Ponty entitled to settle upon this impossibility? And to answer 
it we must inquire into the exact nature of existential phenom- 
enology so as to see whether it seems really bound up with a 
necessary denial of the absolute. To do so, we must first 
determine the meaning of the expressions "phenomenology" 
and "existentialism"; I have been using them, but with the 
realization that it is indispensable to explain precisely what they 
convey. "What distinguishes the phenomenological method as 

Truth and Liberty 23 

it has been employed since Husserl and above all since 
Heidegger, and as it has been given expression in France in 
the work of Sartre and Merleau-Ponty is the determination to 
restrict one's self to the consideration of "phenomena/' that is 
to say (as the parent Greek term ta phenomena tells us), to 
the study of what appears. This is to say that phenomenology 
is essentially a description of what exists (and it is by virtue of 
this fact that it is existential), of existence as it presents itself 
to us, without any question about whether this existence has any 
substratum or background. 

This constitutes the method itself, insofar as it is a method of 
metaphysical analysis of the various situations in which man 
may find himself. But the existentialism of Sartre and of 
Merleau-Ponty goes in fact further than this. It undertakes to 
restrict itself to a description of the situation in which man 
finds himself. But it also undertakes to define the general 
properties of being. Consequently it also constitutes an on- 
tology, a total explanation, and one that involves a novel con- 
ception of being itself. Yet, on the other hand, it asserts that 
the object of this ontology of this philosophy in the formal 
sense is not reducible to the phenomena described, which con- 
stitute this appearance, which in turn is the only object acces- 
sible to us; but at the same time it asserts that the object of this 
ontology is not something as it were hidden behind this appear- 
ance, either. In other words, existentialism as conceived bj 
Sartre and Merleau-Ponty consists essentially in the tenet thai 
there can be absolutely nothing else than what we can reach 
through awareness of the various situations in which man finds 
himself. Their empirical formulation that we can reach onlj 
phenomena is accompanied by the metaphysical tenet tha 
nothing but phenomena can even exist. And the idea that 
behind what appears^ there might be something else, something 


really and truly being, not reached directly by experience, but 
deduced from, concluded from, supported by, asserted on the 
strength of, this experience this they view as a kind of philo- 
sophical shell game, and an essential departure from the 
existential method. 

So, there can be no being besides the one that appears, which 
is manifested in contingent existence. All that can be added is 
that this being is diversified in the variety of manifestations 
proper to it. According to Sartre, it is present both in the en-sol 
(that is, in the datum, as appearing to us in what Sartre calls 
"factitiousness") and in the pour-soi (that is, in the reaction 
of our consciousness and our liberty to that datum) . But these 
two aspects, which make up reality, come down finally to being 
nothing more than two aspects of an essentially contingent 
world, beyond which there is absolutely no absolute for us to 
look for. Reality is thus a perpetual creation, absolutely un- 
predictable, which results from the reaction of our freedom with 
the various situations with which it finds itself confronted. 

In view of this position, we are confronted not simply with 
a method of description of the various situations within which 
man can find himself, but with the assertion (one, then, strictly 
on the philosophical plane) that this is the only thing that 
exists and that nothing else even can exist. We see very easily, 
that is, that Sartre and Merleau-Ponty pass from a method of 
describing reality to a metaphysical assertion on the content 
of all reality. For what makes a metaphysics is nothing more 
nor less than an assertion about being itself, that is to say the 
ultimate basis of things. In asserting that the ultimate basis 
of things is never anything but this contingent existence, and 
that there exists nothing besides this world in the variety of its 
manifestations that this is the only reality that exists or can 
exist in so doing, our authors are on a metaphysical plane. 

Truth and Liberty 25 

This constitutes, in effect, as already remarked, and here 
again we are employing precisely the language used by this 
school, the transition of a philosophy from an existential 
method, that is to say from a description of existence in the 
variety of its aspects, to an existential philosophy, which is to 
say practically to a new metaphysics. As Jean Wahl in his 
Htstoire de la philosophise de l> existence has well remarked, 
these philosophers have started, with Kierkegaard, the great 
pioneer in this enterprise, from a study of existence properly so 
called in terms o a concrete datum made the subject of 
description, and ended up with a new metaphysics a meta- 
physics of the contingent, involving the existence o the con- 
tingent only, on the basis of the elaboration of the idea of 

But this, undeniably, constitutes a step beyond the method 
we described at the outset. And so we are brought to make this 
comment, of capital importance for what we have to say, 
namely, that it is not the phenomenological method as such, and 
in itself, which goes contrary to the affirmation of a God and the 
recognition of the absolute; no, it is instead a specific ontology, 
a specific metaphysics, superimposed upon the phenomeno- 
logical method by Sartre and Merleau-Ponty. And one may 
even wonder whether this new ontology, shutting up man in his 
contingence, is not a return to precisely what the first existen- 
tial philosophers and I ani thinking here of Kierkegaard in 
particular undertook to set the philosopher free from. We 
may wonder, that is, if it does not bring us back to a positivism, 
a rationalism which is the very thing Kierkegaard took up his 
position against, violently protesting against the insufficiency of 
the brute fact, and championing, conversely, in the name of the 
ineluctable requirements of existence, an ultimate meaning to 
things an absolute. The Russian philosopher Shestov's is the 


genuine existentialism, holding the world of contingence, in 
which we are shut up by pure experience, to be a prison, a prison 
that we can escape from. Sartre and Merleau-Ponty, it may be 
said, inclose us again in the prison from which it was precisely 
the aim of the first existentialist philosophers to free us. 

We must go still further in our criticism and say that even 
on the level of phenomenological description, of the description 
of man-on-the-spot, objections can be brought against Sartre and 
Merleau-Ponty. For one thing, the latter insists a great deal on 
what he calls ambiguity: ambivalence of soul and body, which 
are two merely dialectical aspects of one and the same reality; 
ambivalence of good and evil, which are not opposed as two 
contradictory realities, but each in fact being always more or 
less implied by the other. True enough, in the rejection of 
abstract analyses is to be found one of the elements that give 
existential analysis its value. Existential analysis is correct in 
refusing to attribute to complex reality the abstract divisions 
which are the work of the mind. And, to be sure, it is pure gain 
for the phenomenological method to place us always in the 
presence of certain totalities, of a unit, that is, comprising 
complex attitudes, bound one to another, which we must grasp 
thus in their togetherness. 

I shall be giving examples of this in a moment. But the point 
must be brought up that one of the most noteworthy features 
of phenomenological analysis, particularly as practiced in its 
early days by Husserl and Max Scheler, was its revealing that 
certain data of human experience, which an attempt had been 
made to explain in terms of one another, were not in fact thus 

Of this I shall cite some examples at once. Max Scheler, in 
his book on the nature and forms of sympathy, in reaction 
against certain sociological and certain psychoanalytical expla- 

Truth and Liberty 27 

nations of love, showed that between the infectious emotion that 
pervades a crowd galvanized by some orator, sexual love, and 
spiritual love, there exist not simply differences of degree, per- 
mitting a sliding on the scale from one to another, but, in sober 
fact, radically distinct essences. Similarly Otto, in his book on 
the idea of the holy, shows us that religious situations, where 
man is in contact with the absolute, are of such makeup as is 
absolutely irreducible to a sublimation of affectivity or to group- 
generated tension. In other words, there are data of human 
experience that cannot be reduced to one another. What if 
phenomenology does simply stop at this descriptive stage? This 
is already a considerable achievement; and I for my part think 
that one of the essential features of phenomenology is its 
protest against the intolerable reductions of this kind that nine- 
teenth-century positivism used to make so often. 

In reality, Merleau-Ponty reintroduces dialectic the con- 
tinual movement from one reality to another, each demanding 
the other. But if dialectic, as Father Fessard has shown, is a 
proper instrument for the analysis of historical situations, 
which present us with factors that are complementary, it is no 
fit instrument of analysis in the metaphysical order. In Hegelian 
and Marxist dialectic there is therefore something radically 
vitiated, in that their dialectic rests on the notion of a certain 
total homogeneity of realities one with another, whereas exis- 
tentialism for Kierkegaard, in reaction against Hegel and 
Hegelian dialectic and it must never be forgotten that it was 
essentially against Hegel that Kierkegaard took his position 
was precisely an assertion of the radical distinction of orders 
(in Pascal's sense of the word) and of the irreducibleness in 
particular of the absolute to the various aspects of contingent 

Still another criticism may be brought against atheistic exis- 


tentialism for privileging certain situations at the expense of 
others, and for identifying phenomenology, as a description 
of existence, with the description of the atheist existentialist's 
own existence. From this point of view a Gabriel Marcel, a 
Christian existentialist, rightly protests against Sartre, when 
Sartre privileges certain situations like nausea, that is, the dis- 
gust a man experiences on confronting the abyss of his freedom, 
and when he refuses, in contrast, to consider that hope may 
constitute an existential situation just as genuine. In fact, the 
phenomenological method as such does not permit the making 
of value-judgments that sanction the privileging of one kind of 
situation at the expense of some other. From this point of view 
a phenomenology of belief is possible alongside a phenome- 
nology of unbelief. I mean that the believer will come up with 
a phenomenology of faith, while the unbeliever will come up 
with a phenomenology of absence of faith. Consequently it 
may be asserted that there is indeed a shell game in the atheistic 
existentialists' claim that phenomenology leads necessarily to 
a justification of atheism, whereas this is simply the expression 
of their own particular situation in existence. 

I shall offer another example of this from the debate I had 
with Merleau-Ponty. In that debate, Merleau-Poniy had ex- 
plained that it is the property of language to afford us an oppor- 
tunity to invent, and that what is interesting in the realm of 
language is novel statement: the new combinations to which 
language lends itself. In the discussion that followed I pointed 
out to him that scope for novel invention may be one aspect 
of the value of language, but that the fact of being able also 
to conserve what has been said, and which has abiding validity, 
may be considered a quite as essential function of language. 
I pointed out that the fact, for example, that what was said by 
Plato, and what was said by Shakespeare, have been preserved 

Truth and Liberty 29 

for us not to speak of the special case of language's having 
preserved for us what was said once and for all by Jesus Christ 
may be considered a more important function than the 
combinations which the Surrealists are able to arrive at by 
arranging words in some undreamed-of order. In such a case 
as this, Merleau-Ponty was privileging one category, invention, 
as against another category, transmission. But we can give him 
the direct reply that invention and transmission are two situa- 
tions of language which are both perfectly valid, and that there 
is no reason to privilege one of these functions in relationship 
to, and in opposition to, the other. 

One particular case in this business one involving a basic 
consideration in the judgment we have to pass on existentialism 
is that of a person's relationship with other people. In the 
situation, as described by existentialist phenomenology, the 
other person is a prime datum. This is, to be a man is to be in 
the world, and this being-in-the-world implies that man is a 
being in relationship with other beings. And indeed one may 
say that this is one of the achievements of phenomenology. 
The problem for certain philosophers is to manage to find 
something other than themselves, once having taken themselves 
as their point of departure, whereas phenomenology puts us 
quite out of the way of that danger: it is in that regard the very 
opposite of a subjectivism or a solipsism. 

Nevertheless, in connection with this "other people" which 
is a prime datum of existence, Sartre, and I am thinking here 
particularly of him, brings back in precisely the old opposition 
between subject and object, which it was the very purpose of 
existentialism to set us free from. In the measure that other 
people, for Sartre, are part of the en-soi, that is, part of the 
datum of brute fact, which we run up against, to that extent 
other people, for Sartre, are objects. No work of Sartre's is 


more characteristic of this attitude than Huis das, which 
presents us exactly with the impossibility of communication with 
other people. "Hell" says Sartre in this play, "is they" Other 
people, that is, make up that prison which we run up against: 
we try to make objects of them, but without achieving any com- 
munication. Sartre thus re-establishes a solitude of the indi- 
vidual face to face with the world, a solitude which is not here 
the solitude of a subjective idealist, but the solitude of the 
opposition between a subject and a world entirely opaque to his 

But this is in no way implied by phenomenological analysis 
as such. And, taking the same point of departure, a Gabriel 
Marcel constructs, in contrast, a philosophy of communication, 
which is doubtless the feature of his philosophy to which he 
holds most strongly, and in which the initial indetermination, 
between self and other people, is developed into a philosophy of 
intersubjectivity, that is, communciation among subjects, which 
for Gabriel Marcel is the very expression of the indubitable 
existential; that is, the absolutely basic datum, love, inasmuch 
as it is communication with other people, appears as the 
absolutely indubitable reality, which I cannot place in doubt, 
and the basis on which every metaphysics can be erected, 

We may note the value a contribution like that one may have 
for a Christian philosophy as metaphysical justification of a 
theology of charity. But it is equally valuable for a concrete 
philosophy of knowledge. The knowledge afforded by faith is 
a knowledge which comes about in intersubjectivity. That is, 
it is of the essence of knowledge acquired by faith to be re- 
ceived by transmission through witnesses. And that is precisely 
what is sometimes irritating to present-day minds, in that they 
wish to reach all truth on their own. Now, knowledge achieved 
by faith forces us to acknowledge that on the level of the 

Truth and Liberty 31 

essential certainties of existence that is, relating first o all to 
our knowledge of others, and eminently to our knowledge of 
God love and intelligence become indissoluble; here we must 
acknowledge, that is, that we depend necessarily upon one 
another in the discovery of truth. It is therefore together, and 
only together, that we can have access to the truth which is 

Now there is no reason why Sartre's position, which considers 
other people to be an object, should be a more legitimate 
application of the phenomenological method than Marcel's 
position, which considers other people to be, on the contrary, 
a subject. These are two interpretations of the initial data, 
interpretations of which one can say at the very least that either 
is quite as legitimate as the other, so that there is no reason to 
privilege Sartre's judgment of the data over Marcel's, and that 
only metaphysics will enable one to render a decision. 

Thus these various remarks have led us to make a radical 
distinction between existential phenomenology's method of 
analysis and the use which certain existentialists today make of 
it in order to draw negative conclusions regarding the claims for 
an absolute. We may say that phenomenology as such is in no 
way bound up with the denial of God, and is not dependent on 
any determinate ontology. Likewise, it is susceptible to various 
utilizations. There is that which a Sartre, a Merleau-Ponty, and 
others give it; but there is also and it seems to me very 
important to remember this an existentialism examples of 
which we meet when it comes to Catholics, like Marcel and 
Guardini, or Jews, like Martin Buber, or an Orthodox like 
Lev Shestov. 

We come now to the question, since existential phenome- 
nology does not in itself lead to a denial of God, what is it that 
brings atheistic existentialists, and in particular those of whom 


we are speaking, to deny the existence of an absolute? They 
do not do so, let it be said, through any requirement on the part 
of their existentialism; they do so, therefore, in virtue of a 
certain philosophy, a certain metaphysics, which they thus add 
on to the phenomenological method itself. Now, if we examine 
all their works, we may submit that their reaction to this 
problem is always the same. The position taken by Sartre is 
well known. Essence does not precede existence. This means 
that, for Sartre, it is the decision of my liberty which is, at each 
moment, the absolute beginning. It is not commanded, deter- 
mined, or ruled by anything; it is, really, absolute possibility 
and total novelty. Man does not exist unless he is thus, by 
himself, the cause of his own existence. In the preface to his 
study of Descartes, Sartre expressed it clearly: what he did was 
to transfer to man what traditional philosophy attributed to 
God, namely, aseity, which is to say the fact of depending only 
upon himself. 

It is at that point, too, that Sartre's humanism reaches its 
limit. Confronted with the abyss of his own liberty, man is 
seized by a sort of vertigo. This is nausea. So, for example, in 
Huis clos, are the three characters shut up in themselves, one 
another's mutual hell, face to face eternally with one another, 
each incapable of communicating with the others, and seeking 
in them only a looking glass in which to be mirrored. This 
eternal face-to-face becomes for man an intolerable hell. And it 
is at this point that he seeks, through a revulsion, to be freed 
from himself. Anything at hand is valid for this purpose. Here 
is the explanation of why certain intellectuals, of whom the very 
opposite might have been expected, have turned to communism. 
It explains why what has attracted them in communism has been 
precisely what was most at odds with themselves, namely, 
renunciation of liberty. Of this Dostoievsky probably had a 
presentiment in his legend of the "Grand Inquisitor.*' 

Truth and Liberty 33 

Freedom is intolerable to men they are delivered from it by 
slavery. Malraux once showed this perfectly in his character 
Vologuine in La condition humaine. But he has long since 
opened up more promising roads. Sartre, in contrast, is still 
taking this position today; his latest book, La critique de la 
raison dialectique, is a faithful echo of a certain French intelli- 
gentsia: "I never get anywhere; my ideas do not enable me to 
construct anything; so, there is no solution but Marxism." To 
put it in other words: My liberty, at bottom, is worthless; 
I shall profit by it so long as I have it; but I look for the 
swipe of the broom that I have coming to me. 

Here is a shocking expression met rather often, even on the 
lips of people among whom it is astonishing to hear it: "That's 
what it will have to come to/' Such, at the end of Tibor 
Mende's book, is the expression of an aged Chinese. I know 
people who, speaking of certain foreign lands, say: "It will be 
very sad, but that's what it will have to come to." This mood 
is an outrage it proves that we have given up on being able to 
bring the world what it is looking for. It is ignoble I abuse 
freedom so long as I have it, but I know the liberty I am 
abusing is something worthless, something I deserve to be dis- 
embarrassed of. It is a liberty that I consider blameworthy; 
whence the bad conscience of so many of the intellectuals of 
our country, who are guilty, who know it, and who await the 
last judgment and the hell they have merited, under the form of 
a "people's democracy" as their government. 

What Sartre also witnesses to, and rightly so, is liberty's in- 
capability of being sufficient unto itself. His error lies in 
believing that it can escape its impotence only by denying itself. 
The question to be determined is whether there exists any order 
to which liberty can commit itself without renouncing its nature. 
Now, that order does exist. It is a system, first of all, of reci- 
procity among persons. For submitting to my liberty's being 


limited by another person's liberty is not a renunciation of my 
liberty, but a recognition that I ought to be as desirous of scope 
for another person's liberty as I am when it comes to my own. 
In other words, this is transcending the level of having and 
reaching the level of being. Moreover, this order in which my 
liberty reaches self-fulfilment is according to God's plan, and 
is answerable not to an impersonal and extrinsic law, but to the 
acknowledgment of an infinitely holy personal liberty, one 
bound up, moreover, with the implications of my personal 
existence themselves, so that in obeying it I am at the same time 
fulfilling myself. It is in this truth that liberty has its sole 






IT WOULD be interesting to trace the genealogy of the humanism 
we are speaking of. Doubtless the line would be traced back to 
Nietzsche. In the revolt of the creator of Zarathustra against 
all order there is an undeniable grandeur. But Nietzsche was 
the first to affirm that it is upon the death of God that man is 
to be reared. In this he defined very well the attitude Which we 
are examining. Towards God, Nietzsche experienced a kind of 
jealousy. He submitted unwillingly to having to acknowledge 
a greatness which he himself could not possess. It was in him 
that atheism found its really positive expression, the position 
that man does not exist unless his excellence is supreme. What 
Nietzsche also saw clearly is the strict connection between God 
and an objective morality. He was the first representative of 
situation ethics. He saw clearly that morality is inseparable 
from God, that it is not an abstract law, but the expression of 
a personal will. And his transmutation of values consisted in 
substituting a moral system which he gave to himself for one 
received from someone else. 

This attitude has reappeared in a number of writers and 
philosophers. I shall cite one of the most striking examples, 
Malraux's La condition humaine. There we find the quest (it 



is one character's line in the book) of life itself and of the 
suffering at the bottom of it, that is, a certain basic experience 
in the metaphysical line, which is existence itself. The charac- 
ters look for it in different directions. It is in the act of killing 
that Tchen discovers a wholeness of selfhood that he tries to 
define as ecstasy. Similarly and the thing is rather striking 
because the character in certain ways might seem to be possessed 
of a different perspective Clappique, at the moment when 
he stakes all the money he has left, experiences an intensity of 
existence which one of the characters has spelled out. The folly 
of these solutions is not the important thing: They are the 
expression of a kind of fulness of the moment of time, an 
intensity of existence which has the appearance of the supremely 
worth while. What gives the book its interest is that the 
characters live in it intensely. There is not a one of them who 
is lukewarm. Even unsympathetic characters like Ferral have 
a certain greatness. In Malraux's mind, he finds in his will to 
power an affirmation of himself. 

The world of Malraux is a world from which mediocrity is 
absent, where the thing is to live dangerously. Stretching 
towards the fulness of freedom and not being able to reach it, 
that is the main point. Success is devoid of interest, either on 
the personal level or on the political level; the worst blunder 
the unfortunate pastor makes is to speak to Tchen of happiness. 
Malraux's characters are not looking for happiness; they are 
looking for fulfilment. That is why it is noteworthy that the 
fact that their fate leads to catastrophe does not prevent them 
from fulfilling themselves. Quite to the contrary; should they 
succeed at politics or at love, that would only mean being sen- 
tenced for life to be middle class. Unhappiness is indispensable 
in showing that they look for nothing from fate, but that, quite 
to the contrary, it is to the extent that their fate is more tragic 

The Myth of Unhappiness 37 

that it is revealed as better than the only thing they are looking 
for, namely, self-transcendence. Success is trifling; the impor- 
tant thing is to have been great. We may note in this connection 
an episode in which Malraux attains mythic power, the episode 
where we see Kyo's fate balanced on that little ball rolling on 
the gaming table. One gets the impression here of a kind of 
extraordinary contrast between the absurdity of a fate depen- 
dent on a trifling event and the one thing of consequence, 
which is one's attitude towards fate. 

It seems on the other hand that every time Malraux's charac- 
ters try to give a justification for their attitude, to talk either 
about a cause, or about an ideal, or about some reason for living, 
the words ring false. I shall give some examples. When, in 
the courtyard, Kyo before he dies is expressing what his ideal 
has been, he ends with a line crass enough to be the final line 
in a B moving picture: "The thought of me will live on at 
least, in the memories of men/' When Gisors explains his 
more or less Indian philosophy, in which he expresses a vague 
reconciliation of personal existence with the universal, we are 
equally abashed. The more awesome Malraux's attitude in the 
presence of existence is, the more disappointed we are every 
time he essays a response to life on the metaphysical level. 
There is a disproportion between a certain attitude towards life 
and any justification thereof. Malraux's characters do not die 
for a cause; the causes are a pretext for dying; they seek death, 
so as to reach the dark heart of existence. This is no political 
gambit. All the political causes turn out, I think, to be ulti- 
mately secondary to what the characters are really seeking. 

Is this, however, to say (and this is my third point) that 
there does not exist in the novel a certain ethics ? I believe we 
find in Malraux a pervasive sense of virtue, and of the virtues, 
in Comeille's understanding of the term. And his characters 


are in many ways animated by genuine virtues. We find for 
example a certain camaraderie and humane brotherhood, a code 
of dignity expressed rather paradoxically in the note of truest 
humanity, on the part of Valery when confronted with Ferral. 
In addition the characters are continually offering us the 
example of an extraordinary courage. Unquestionably there is 
in all this a human grandeur rarely attained. But it is here that 
I come to what from the Christian viewpoint is a grave matter, 
where we are confronted with some real problems. Malraux's 
case is different from Sartre's. It is certain that Sartre's ethics 
have nothing that is liable to fool or deceive us. We are too 
much aware of all that is unacceptable in them. In contrast, 
Malraux's ethics, because they do reach certain heights, present 
us with a genuine problem. The ideal of his characters, in their 
asserting a kind of richness of life divorced from all the con- 
ventions, has about it something that may seduce us. 

Now, this attitude has its existence on a strictly human plane, 
and on the plane of man's relations with man. It not only 
ignores, but fiercely rejects, anything which would come along 
and contaminate this unadulterated humanity, which, precisely, 
is the only thing worth man's undivided quest. So, anything 
like the presence of God, or relationship with a religious life, 
would seem like an adulterant to genuine humanity. The world 
of Malraux, as exhibited in La condition bumaine, seems to be 
a world deliberately shut off from God, a world carefully 
confined to the determination to make of the relations of man 
to man the supreme value. Now, this seems to me what 
represents, today, the essential temptation, that of a certain 
social humanism, the temptation, not to do evil, but to show 
that one has no need of God in order to do good that is, in 
short, to show that man is perfectly capable by himself of 
reaching veritable greatness, and that he has nothing to look 
for from God. 

The Myth of Unhappiness 39 

It is highly characteristic of this outlook that, if Malraux's 
heroes live in a climate of human virtues, they live in the total 
absence of what I shall call grace in the Christian sense of the 
word. They are great, yet are in the state of mortal sin. We 
find in them a total dissociation between an ethics corresponding 
to certain summits of human dignity, and Christian moral 
values. Each character has some variety of cockle sown in with 
his greatness. Gisors is an opium addict, and his addiction is an 
integral part of his characterization. Valerie is a demimondaine. 
In Tchen we find an appetite for bloodshed and killing; in the 
other characters, for eroticism. There is something deeply 
disturbing here in the very climate of the book, in the expression 
of this total dissociation of moral greatness from spiritual grace 
and from the Christian evangelical ideal. Someone cited Mal- 
raux as saying: God can die without anything* s being changed. 
What seems to me, precisely, is that for Malraux God is dead 
and that everything is changed. I believe that the ethics pro- 
posed to us by Malraux is one profoundly affected by the fact 
that for his heroes God is indeed dead, an ethics that quite 
departs from the one which we since we think it the only one 
where man can reach full self-realization still hold to. 

I shall conclude by inquiring just where we may say Malraux 
takes up his position. It seems to me and I am returning here 
to what I said at the outset that we find in Malraux the ideal 
of a tragic greatness which is its own reason for being. "The 
martyr who has no faith" is Montherlant's expression in Port- 
Royal. What we find is a martyr who endures a torment not 
justified as the means to a redemption, but seeming in itself the 
supreme degree of greatness because it is the basic torment: the 
torment of existing, but not for any further purpose. Liberty is 
the supreme goal in an absurd world where it is ever doomed to 
disappointment. Malraux's position seems to me to coincide 
with Sartre's on the metaphysical level, though differing from 


it on the level of moral sensibility. Malraux is right in con- 
demning the bondage of a society which bullies man and blocks 
his self-fulfillment. But where he, too, is wrong is in failing to 
inquire whether there is an order to which man can commit 
himself without destroying himself, and whether there is no 
possibility of liberty's making room for love and hope. 

But it must also be observed that it is not the absurdity of 
the world which causes the revolt here; it is the revolt which 
introduces absurdity into the world in the first place, so as to 
have something to justify itself; the writers we have been dis- 
cussing need evil in order to revolt; for pessimism is the 
indispensable diet of revolt. What comes first is the will to 
rebel ; because these writers already want to say "no" to the world 
in the first place, because they already itch to bring creation to 
the bar, because they already want to refuse to acknowledge 
that the world is good, and is the work of God, and because 
they clutch at any and every reason they can find for rejecting 
his creation that is why we find their rebellion fabricating 
pessimism, trying to be affronted, always giving prominence to 
the seamy side, looking carefully away from all that might 
prove of sound value, so that they may contrive to utter the 
"no they have in their craw. 

But, it will be objected, are we not dismissing as trifling 
what the world does present in justification of revolt? In an 
absurd world, revolt is the only way left. It is freedom's last 
refuge. His refusal to resign himself to his lot is the very mark 
of man's greatness. On that score revolt is the badge of as 
many Christians as non-Christians. Look for the great rebels of 
the modern world among Rimbaud, Nietzsche, and Camus, and 
you will also find Dostoievsky, Bloy, Bernanos all who, as 
Peguy's Joan of Arc puts it, "are not resigned to anything." 
Among minds so different there is a certain family resemblance, 

The Myth of Unhappiness 41 

enabling us to identify them collectively as rebels. Yet on 
closer view the resemblance tends to dissolve in differences. 

There is an ambiguity in revolt. And this is the fact over- 
looked when one insists on considering revolt in the pure state. 
Revolt means, of course, saying "no." But everything depends 
on what we say "no" to. At an early stage the "no" is uttered 
against injustice. Revolt and justice are correlative terms. The 
expression of revolt is already to be found in the child who, with 
fists clenched and in impotent rage sees punishment dealt to 
someone who does not deserve it. There is the root of revolt in 
many cases. It is the result of the accumulation of mute indig- 
nation at the sight of "right perfection wrongfully disgraced," 
of what deserves to be respected and loved being misprized. 
It is swollen by the spectacle of social injustice or political 
oppression. It becomes revolution when it wakes to awareness 
a commonwealth of the revolted who are determined to burst 
their chains. 

This revolt is sacred. But Camus has taught us to see that 
it falls short. What depends on man is limited. There is no hoax 
more evil than letting men think that they can install a king- 
dom of God on earth. By turning their heads towards the 
illusory historical solution, one simply takes their attention from 
their real tasks. You can do only a certain amount of good for 
people, but that little bit, at least, you can really do. This 
modest social responsibility which, in sum, is offered by the 
work of Camus, inexorably denouncing Utopian ambitions, 
knowing that there are programs of instituting justice which 
commonly serve as a pretext for terrors of every kind and that 
the crimes of the doctrinaire are the most dangerous of all this 
is the truest expression of revolt within the limits of the 
temporal condition of man. 

Yet to say so much clearly brings us only to the threshold of 


the problem. For the injustices upon which man has seized are, 
after all, limited. The real revolt breaks out on the level of 
what man has not come to grips with and which he knows, if 
he is sane, that he cannot come to grips with. No revolution, 
no amount of scientific progress will ever change the scandalous 
fact that little children die, that good people are persecuted, 
that whole populations find themselves hurled into wars. And 
even if human effort could abate these evils, the fact would 
remain that they did once exist. Because of the scandal of the 
suffering of the innocent the word stands convicted, and revolt 
is justified. 

This scandal is something we cannot be rid of. The world as 
it stands is unjust, we must own. All the brilliantly reasoned 
solutions, Christian or atheist, are, when it comes to this, 
nugatory. Never can we be made to swallow the rationalist 
optimism of Condorcet or of Marx, of Bossuet or of Teilhard 
de Chardin. Nothing is worse, when it comes to this point, 
than to undertake to justify God. The result will be only 
apologetics that will provoke loss of faith. For they are 
explanations that all too clearly will not square with the facts. 
If we had to judge things according to the norms of our justice, 
Camus would be right in citing God before the bar of human 
justice, in convicting him by due process, and in passing inex- 
orable sentence upon him. For it is plain as day that, if justice 
consisted in the distribution of temporal weal and woe accord- 
ing to merit, the world which we know would have nothing in 
common with it. 

But in the presence of this injustice, which must, as the first 
step, be acknowledged, there is the revolt of Nietzsche, and 
there is the revolt of Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard recognized that 
the world does not square with what we call justice. But he 
appeals from it to another justice. Kierkegaard's faith is faith 

The Myth of Unhappiness 43 

in hidden ways the wisdom of which is greater than ours. And 
perhaps it is better so. When we see what men make of the 
world when they organize it by their lights, we may well wonder 
whether it is not preferable after all for somebody else to be 
pursuing a design in it that is hidden from us, but where 
through the chinks in the mystery provided by suffering and joy, 
death and life, we glimpse greatness. The world as it is gives 
scope for only two attitudes: revolt and faith. Faith does not 
exculpate the world for us. On the contrary, it presupposes 
scandal, for it consists in surmounting scandal. 

But this act of faith, this cry raised by man, captive and 
powerless to free himself, for a release at the hands of some- 
body else this is exactly what the revolter will have none of. 
Only here, we must watch out for the fact that revolt has 
altered in meaning. It no longer means revolt against injustice. 
That kind, as we have made clear, we are taking for granted. 
Here we are talking of revolt against dependence. It is not 
injustice that is being said "no** to, but the sovereignty of God. 
Revolt is refusal to obey. And here is the meaning of the word 
which is without doubt deepest and murkiest. Everything up 
to this point was rejection of evil. But here revolt is the cause 
of evil. Evil and injustice appear here under the flag of revolt. 
The pure, the original, the master revolt was the revolt of the 
angel, poison root from which all evil stems and which pokes up 
perpetually the mystery of evil which enhedges us and from 
which Christ alone can deliver us. 

Now, the more revolt in the prior sense of the word 
appears as the expression of the greatness of man, the more 
(I must say, since I sense this in my whole being) it seems to 
me in the latter sense the expression of his paltriness. It brands 
the spirit incapable of the sovereignly noble disposition of the 
heart adoration, which is the capacity to recognize greatness 


even where one does not possess it one's self. Now this capacity 
is the true stamp of generosity of soul. This it was that gave 
their incomparable qualities to Dante and to Shakespeare, to 
Claudel and to Bernanos, to John of the Cross and to Pierre de 
Berulle. In contrast, this revolt in the second sense characterizes 
the being who is centered upon himself, who views all things 
as something to own. Nietzsche gave it voice: he was jealous 
of Christ, restive under the obligation of acknowledging in 
another a greatness beyond his own means. 

Now this comes down to two attitudes against which I feel 
my whole being protest. Either it is an absence of the sense of 
God, a kind of defective spiritual vision and this is to have 
something missing in one's makeup. (When one realizes the 
almost insupportable weight of divine glory, that overwhelming 
and marvelous density of existence, ignorance of it seems like 
disability and destitution.) Or else it is outright sacrilege, the 
urge to trample on what is sacred. And this seems to me, I 
must say, something quite as vile as trampling on the rights of 
man. My sympathy goes to this misprized God. I feel jealous 
for his sake. 

Thus we had reason to declare that injustice is not the cause 
of the revolt we meet today, but that revolt is prior and seeks 
justification in the absurd. And this is why we challenge the 
connection between greatness and unhappiness. We contend, 
on the contrary, that happiness is the heroic vocation of man. 
It is but an absurd prejudice that moves certain of our con- 
temporaries to profess to despise it and to allow no greatness 
save tragic greatness. Far from being attended by ease and 
comfort, happiness is a difficult conquest It is no restful haven 
to which one retires through weariness and debility, but ad- 
venture upon adventure braved by those who will brook no 
arrest. Admittedly, it has its own traps, and Is open to abuse 

The Myth of Unhappmess 45 

as well. Indeed, certain careers become engulfed in selfish 
types of happiness. And yet are we really speaking of happiness 
here? Are there not apparent successes which do not succeed in 
bestowing it? They may have a fagade masking a soul that is 
at peace with nothing. And the very greatest spiritual successes 
may spring forth from the very heart of failure. 

In reality, if modern man pretends to disdain happiness, he 
often does so because he has rendered himself incapable of it 
in the first place. By selling himself short, he comes to think 
that it would be impossible for him, and loses even the 
appetite for it. And that is the bottom of the abyss. If we 
would save men, the first thing we must do is restore at least 
their desire for salvation and their confidence that it is some- 
thing possible for them. But here we run up against their 
secret complicity with nothingness and with death. And this 
complicity is, at bottom, the expression of a determination to be 
one's own master. For every mind in the least lucid recognizes 
that there is no happiness but implies acceptance and gratitude. 
It takes a good deal of humility to agree to be happy. And 
pride needs unhappiness to feed its rebellion. It affects to shy 
from happiness as a prison because it lacks the courage to face 
what it implies. 

The hide-and-go-seek between happiness and man is a strange 
game indeed. Happiness hides itself from those who pursue it, 
and tags the players who are not looking for it. Like the Spirit, 
it breathes where it will. The ancients identified it with For- 
tune, the capricious. And the wisest of them counseled against 
placing trust in it. Admittedly one sure way never to be dis- 
appointed is never to expect anything. Yet that wisdom, too, 
falls short. For happiness is man's vocation. It is better to 
suffer and not renounce happiness than to find peace by re- 
nouncing it. The man of courage is the man who continues to 


believe in happiness despite all failures and all disappointments. 
And, in the end, happiness will never fail to show such a man 
its true face. 

For happiness, when all is said and done, does not lie in 
having this or that, but in the discovery of the meaning of 
existence and in communion with the absolute. Sadness lies in 
disharmony, in being pulled in too many directions. It over- 
takes us when we no longer know where we are. It broods over 
desires that are torn this way and that, over a heart sundered 
like tumbling quicksilver. Unity is the haunt of happiness, 
which dwells in the depths of the heart, in a sanctuary un- 
accessible, where it is never at the mercy of anything. It is, 
down underneath the miscellany of life's occurrences, their 
secret unity, binding our days each to each in a vocation, the 
fundamental harmony of existence and its progress towards the 
absolute of God. 

Men are mistaken in setting duty and happiness apart. Secret 
pride is what brings them to think that duty is purer when it 
looks for no recompense. There is a residue of Jansenism in 
this, to which the French are more prone than other folk. 
Montherlant granted that what attracted him in Port-Royal was 
that for him the supreme greatness is suffering. Claudel, who 
(for his part) believed in happiness, was right in denouncing 
this masochism. For God wills our happiness. He asks us to 
let him make us happy. The assertion of the ultimate coinci- 
dence of goodness and happiness, liberty and fate, is the 
fundamental cry of human existence in the face of all the 
seeming contradictions. This holds true, not only for the life 
hereafter, but for our present life. 

The mistake many people make is identifying happiness with 
certain moments of their lives and doubting its capacity to 
stand the test of time. They would like time to have a stop at 

The Myth of Unhappiness 47 

certain perfect moments of life, seeing in the clock that tells 
the time a menace to their fragile joys. Happiness is for them 
the paradise lost forever in the past. Now nothing is more 
mistaken than this. For the various happinesses with which life 
is visited and which are graces from God have no purpose but 
to awaken a taste for happiness that time alone can deepen, 
divest it of its trappings, strip it of what is unessential. And 
after having brought us to love God in his gifts, it brings us to 
love him for himself. 



OUR TASK and we think it is one of the essential tasks, the 
essential task of our day is a task of demystification: that is, 
of pointing out that there is no mysticism save that belonging to 
God. There is a marxist mystification which sets up revolution 
as a religion. Is or was. There is the mystification of scientism, 
looking for all salvation from evolution. There is also a poetic 
mystification, that is, a pretension on the part of poetry to con- 
stitute a mysticism. It is this poetic mystification which it is our 
business to denounce here. And doing so is doubtless the only 
way to free poetry from the crisis it is passing through and to 
enable it to find again its genuine relationship with the sacred. 
Here is our contention. For the past century and a half poetry 
has been taken for a religion, for the religion. The cause for 
this is to be sought in the arcana of romanticism, or rather of 
pre-romanticisrn, that mysterious threshold where in Blake and 
Holderlin the neo-paganism of Winckelmann joined the esoter- 
icism of Boehme, and was expressed in France in those two 
fragments separated by the blade of Robespierre: Chenier and 
NervaL For if Chenier was not yet Nerval, Nerval was still 


Je pense a tot, Myrto, divine enchanter esse. 

But he surpassed him. In him the formal beauty of paganism, 
which classicism had drawn up from its shadowy abysms, 
became again a religion. Poetic chant became an incantation. 
Woman was for him, Thierry Maulnier was to say, as she would 
be for Baudelaire, as she had been for Novalis, "a darkling 
flash in the boundless night." 

Baudelaire was to enter more deliberately upon the explora- 
tion of artificial paradises. He was to remain the prince of the 
poets of night as defined in a remarkable page of Claudel's. The 
shadow of the black angel hovered over all his work. And 
poetry became the liturgy of this office of the dark. It became 
magic, incantation summoning up lost paradises by the power of 
the Word and opening the portals to heavens unknown. It was 
theology in the negative, not in the sense of the Dionysiac and 
Eckhartian superessence, but in the sense of the Satanic refusal 
to adore. The poetic act assumed a demiurgic value, setting up 
its absurd and ephemeral creation as a protest against the 
staggering weight of the glory of the divine creation. 

But in Baudelaire the esoteric tradition was disengaged from 
the cult of pagan beauty. It was mingled with a sensibility at 
once pessimistic, Christian, and Jansenistic, the origins of 
which have been demonstrated recently. It was not until 
Rimbaud appeared that Nerval's ambition attained its limit and 
that poetic activity was asserted as an act of absolute knowledge. 
In it eternity was regained: 

Cest la mer melee 
avec le soleil. 

It was brought in the Illuminations to its highest point of in- 
candescence. It burnt itself out And that is why Rimbaud was 

Poetry and Truth 51 

thereafter to contribute nothing to the fortunes of the time but 
shabby castoffs. He no longer had any sense for any who 
thought to reach eternity in a moment of time. Poetic activity 
also revealed in Rimbaud a revolutionary and subversive char- 
acter, related to terrorist activity. And it is not without reason 
that the surrealists who inherited it have continued it in the 
direction both of suicide and of communism. 

When it comes down to it, Rimbaud was the only poet who 
took Nietzsche's Death of God seriously and tried to set up 
experimentally a mysticism of Man as the absolute. It was he 
who succeeded in giving poetry its character of mystification. 
That is why his contentions are of direct concern to the theo- 
logian. He squared a mysticism against a mysticism. Or rather, 
he turned the one and only mysticism from its object in order 
to shunt its charge of absolute over to poetic activity. The 
surrealists were to be his direct heirs, beyond Apollinaire and 
St-John Perse. Among them poetry was to continue to be a 
dangerous adventure, constantly skirting suicide with Crevel, 
and madness with Artaud. In Breton, it was to acquire kinship 
with experiences of the most disquieting sort. It is in this sense 
that one must understand the words of Claudel, who saw in him 
a mystic without God, when Claudel referred to a mysticism 
that dispenses with God instead of obscurely seeking him. Here 
Etiemble is right. 

One sees here the exceptional importance of Rimbaud. He 
tried to make poetic activity the mysticism of atheistic human- 
ism. And this is the dream which continues to haunt his true 
disciples. That is the explanation of the affinities between 
surrealism and Marxism but of their contradictions as well. 
For they are two divergent roads. Surrealism is much more akin 
to anarchism or to trotskyism, towards which Breton was to 
lean. Aragon was not to succeed in becoming the party's 
official poet save through agreeing to renounce surrealism for 


neo-realism and through allowing the intense concentration of 
poetic activity as conceived by Rimbaud to be diluted in a 
facile rhetoric. 

This performance, of course, has ever since been felt to be 
a betrayal of poetry. Poetry is degraded when it becomes no 
more than an instrument. Then prose, said Valery, has the 
greater excellence. When one has tasted the magic philter, 
every other conception of poetry seems flat. Rimbaud provoked a 
crisis that is with us yet. True, we did have Valery after 
Mallarme. With him, poetry became once again an exploration 
of the possibilities of language. He caught, in incomparable 
alliterations, the purest music of the language. What was 
inadvertent in Racine or in Lamartine: 

La colombe au col noir roucoule sur les toits 
became in his case a conscious and canny art. 

Dormeuse amas dare d } ombres et d* abandons, 

But Valery made no disciples. Or, if he made any, who knows 
them ? He was the pure academician. He resumed, in the spirit 
of a Malherbe, the guardianship of the language. His verses 
remain in the memory as those particles of radium of which 
Thibaudet spoke and which have a quickening power. But this 
vocation as academician, as manager of the department of 
literature what relish would this hold for someone who had 
caught from Rimbaud the corrupt gaminess of the poetic act? 
Poetry after Rimbaud could lead only to Bicetre, to the Sante, 
or to Chartreuse. It could thenceforth make only monks, mad- 
men, or felons Artaud, Reverdy, or Genet. 

Poetry and Truth 53 

Poetic activity after Rimbaud became a serious and dangerous 
activity, engaging the whole man. And for that reason one 
hesitates to denounce it out of hand. For is this not to appeal 
again to poetry as springing from the sacred mountain? Is this 
not to rob it of its wild gaminess? Is this not to come back to 
a poetic discourse that only lends significance to the message 
which is the pretext for it, and to which it only adds ornamen- 
tation? Is this not to return to poetry as prettification to a 
poetic decor? Or, if poetry is to seek no end but itself, is this 
not to reduce it to the bibelot d'inanite sonore of which Mal- 
larme spoke, to a stuffy and childish game, to a bloodless parlor 

Still, Rimbaud must be denounced. And the risks involved 
must be taken. We shall see later where they lead us. It is 
precisely the great moment of poetic activity as conceived by 
Rimbaud which we must see our way to rejecting. For in 
Rimbaud's view poetic activity is genuine only if it is the 
supreme activity, the one in which man becomes the equal of 
God, or rather substitutes himself for God. Thierry Maulnier 
saw this clearly when he wrote: 

Poetry concentrates the mind at the highest point of 
awareness for a momentary possession of the secrets of 
the universe. It is not prayer, but creation; and what takes 
place is not mysticism, but magic 2 

The objective here is absolute knowledge, where knowledge and 
power coincide, in an ambition whose Satanic character was 
dearly perceived by Carrouges. 
Rimbaud's was he desperate struggle to return to our lost 

* Thierry Maulnier, Introduction a let poeste franchise, p. 32. 


Paradise, to find anew our glorified bodies, and to be reconciled 
with the cosmos, without first passing through a conversion of 
heart. What we are considering here is magical activity literally 
speaking. Magic here is no simple figure of speech. The first 
of all temptations was a temptation to magic, an ambition to 
seize mysterious energies, to steal fire from heaven. Now, this 
is the temptation of the Promethean poet. Every word of 
Thierry Maulnier's here is an exact one. We are discussing a 
"possession of the secrets of the universe/' an absolute knowl- 
edge, the philosopher's stone. But such knowledge is power. 
It permits a transmutation of values. It rivals divine creative 

But the paradise it sets out to restore is not the Paradise where 
divine energies create an atmosphere of grace, radiant with 
charisms. This Paradise only Christ can restore, the tree of lif e 
planted in the Paradise of the Church watered by the living 
water which springs from his pierced heart. The paradise of 
Rimbaud and of Rilke is the paradise of animal innocence not 
Eden before the Fall, but Eden before man, the mysterious 
threshold where man did not yet exist as separate, not separate 
from God, but separate from nature. So he was as described by 
Kierkegaard: "In the state of innocence, man was not an 
animal, nor was he man, either." This was that ambiguous 
paradise that had not impinged upon the realm of sin only 
because it had not impinged upon the realm of conscience, a 
world of beginnings and of metamorphoses, a limitless night 
trembling on the sill of light. 

Thus the significance attached to poetic activity becomes 
dear to us. We understand why, from Novalis to Baudelaire, 
it is haunted by "the bottomless dark." Here we meet the 
obscure metamorphoses and the new Genesis of the Chants de 
Mai dor or i we meet the metallic glare and the inhuman strange- 

Poetry and Truth 55 

ness of landscape in St-John Perse; we meet the efforts of 
Michaux to find the ultimate primitive. All surrealism, is it not, 
is an effort to liberate imaginative creation from the control of 
ethics, to regain the autonomy of a pre-human world ? 

Poetry thus considered is the religion of primordial night, 
of the " saint e de I'abime" which Nerval spoke of, abolishing 
time and thus being both "the first and the last/' Through 
poetic activity, the poet is ingulfed in 

ce puits sombre 

Seuil de Vancien chaos dont le neant est I' ombre 
Spirale engloutissant les mondes et les jours. 

The poetic act is a spiritual exercise, but a spiritual exercise of 
a mysticism of darkness, whose night is not the overwhelming 
brightness of divine light which blinded the sight of John of 
the Cross, but the "vast, black, and bottomless" night which is 
the negative radiance of primordial nothing. Mysticism per- 
haps, but an inverted mysticism, whose itinerary Holland de 
Reneville described in Le sens de la nuit. 

To sum up: The business of poetry for the past century has 
been to constitute itself as a mystical experience, belonging to 
a mysticism in which poetic activity is presented as an absolute 
experience. True, this has conferred upon it a seriousness, a 
dark luminousness, a dignity that it never knew when it was 
but a handmaid. The handmaid wished herself queen. But 
this sacrilegious ambition is precisely what we are denouncing. 
We are denouncing it because this mysticism is a false mysti- 
cism, which has nothing in common with that of John of the 
Cross, but is the topsy-turvy image of it. We denounce it also 
as a mystification a hoax, because it betrays itself as feckless 
and ultimately a joke. It is a brief flash, which then leaves man 


the prey of the darkness. It is a perversion of poetic activity 
itself, a distortion of its genuine significance. And that is why 
it has brought about the crisis of poetry. 

Thus, poetic activity does not represent man's highest 
activity. His highest activity is the mystical, which has to do 
with a different realm, and is an obscure grasp, in naked faith, 
of the Trinity as dwelling in what Tauler called the deeps of 
the soul, where it effects man's sanctification and divinization. 
Mystical activity is thus incommensurable with poetic activity. 
And it is an abuse of the word mysticism to apply it to poetry. 
Thierry Maulnier was right on this point. Henri Bremond 
created many a confusion in this whole matter by likening the 
poetical trance to mystical recollection. Even if he did point 
out the differences, it was still going too far when he instituted 
a comparison between two radically different departures which 
have nothing in common but certain analogous psychological 
phenomena. Poetry is not prayer. 

Accordingly, poetical activity from the Christian point of 
view must be relegated to a second place. It belongs to the 
realm of mind, and not to the realm of charity. But will it not 
then lose all its value? Will the poet not then become a mere 
rimesmith ? Will the loftiness that the nineteenth century found 
in it not be brought to nought? We say the very opposite. One 
of the great errors of our time is refusing to see an activity as 
valuable unless it is raised to the absolute, whether it be 
poetic activity, scientific invention, or revolutionary activity. 
It is precisely in this pretension that lies what we have been 
calling mystification. It is the business of Christianity to chal- 
lenge this pretension and to assert that there is no mysticism 
save that of God. All human activities are by nature relative. 
Claudel sensed this aright; for him, poetic activity was indeed 

Poetry and Truth 57 

something consequential, but its product instinct with an irony 
that punctures, not true greatness, but Satanic pretense. Thus 
he attested the nugatory character of what Rimbaud set afoot. 

But for all that, poetic activity within its own realm is 
not cheapened, but rated at Its true value. And the question 
that confronts us now is this one (and it seems to me the 
essential question) : Granted poetic activity is infinitely inferior 
to mystical activity, still, is it bereft of all value in the realm of 
the sacred ? Is the choice we have to make the choice between 
a sacral, but sacrilegious activity, and a profane and de- 
sacralized activity? Will not poetic activity renounce false 
gods only at the price of renouncing any God ? In the liturgy of 
the Blessed Sacrament, did not Dante, while leaving the first 
place to Francis and Dominic, nevertheless slip into hiding 
among the angelic musicians ? Did not Dante, in fact, present 
Virgil as guide through the first stages of the mystical journey, 
until Virgil's place was taken by Beatrice and Bernard ? After 
having denounced a false conception of the relationship be- 
tween mysticism and poetry, we ought to represent the true 
state of affairs. 

For that, we must come back to the nature of poetic activity. 
True, one may speak of a poetic state of grace which is a sudden 
perception of a harmony resolving all the dissonances. And 
true, there is such a thing as poetic inspiration, not in the 
sense of a visitation of the divine Pneuma, disclosing the 
spiritual significance of things, but in the sense of a sudden 
revelation of a hitherto hidden correspondence among the 
cosmic realities. And true, too, the poet experiences, in the 
presence of this revelation, the feeling of something being com- 
municated to him. Du Bos once admirably defined the spiritual: 
"The sense of a plus where we had been unaware of a minus," 
that is, pure gain total gratuity. And, true enough, in the 


presence of this gratuitous communication, the poet feels 
suffused with a sort of gratitude. One may even, if one wishes, 
in this sense speak of poetry as a spiritual exercise. 

But Du Bos, with deep insight, distinguished among the 
various grades of what he called "the spiritual in the realm of 
literature.'* First, there is that of Shelley, wherein the poetic 
imagination is dissolved and diffused in a sort of communion 
with the cosmos. Such were those subtle fluids from which 
Maurice de Guerin could never emerge, and over which Eilke 
had to triumph in an heroic effort to exist in his difference. On 
the next higher level the spiritual designates, in Du Bos' 
scheme, "human activity wherein is elucidated the activity of 
genius," where the fragments of images, caught into the orbit 
of the nucleus of the person (whose glorified body, so to speak, 
they constitute) become significative of the life of the mind and 
give pure idea a visible face. 

Poetic activity is always perception of correspondences. Here, 
we return to Baudelaire. It is precisely the intuitive grasp of 
symbolic relationships between heterogeneous areas. This can 
take place on the level of sensation. 

Les parfums, les couleurs et les sons se repondent. 

And it is the cosmic spiritual. But these correspondences may 
obtain between images and the psyche, between the macrocosm 
and the microcosm. The world appears to man as the mirror in 
which his own image is reflected: 

. . , san vouSj belles fontaines, 
Ma beaute, ma douleur, me seraient mcertames. 

Here we come into the realm of myth, which is the royal domain 
of ooetry. 

Poetry and Truth 59 

But further on comes still another stage. If the cosmos Is 
a mirror in which man contemplates his own image, it is also 
the reflection of another Face. Mircea Eliade has shown how 
the various constituents of the cosmos the moon and the 
waters, rock and tree, woman and serpent are hierophanies, 
revelations of mystery, which waken the sense of the sacred in 
the soul. And it is on this level that beauty becomes insup- 
portable, that is, when it becomes indeed Beauty, when the 
weight of an angel weighs upon the heart, for "the beautiful is 
nothing but the beginning of the terrible; scarcely do we sustain 
it," said Rilke. The angel, then, pierces the spirit with his 
sharp arrow and opens the wellspring of adoration in the heart. 

Therefore, there does exist a point where poetry and the 
sacred meet. And this is the point where poetic experience and 
(to use Maritain's expression) natural mystical experience meet. 
This is a certain apprehension of God through his manifesta- 
tion in the visible world. It is this particular significance of 
poetic activity that Claudel, being awakened to the dignity of 
poetic activity by Mallarme and Rimbaud and freed from their 
"black demons," rediscovered. The catastrophe of Igitur is 
answered by the Te Igitur of his Messe la-bas, through which 
alone "the purified heart" understands "the odor of the rose*': 

We know that the world is, in effect, a text, and that 
it speaks to us, humbly and joyously, of its own emptiness, 
but also of the presence of someone else, namely, its 
Creator. 3 

But this apprehension of mystery under the appearance of 
images through the intermediary of conversion of heart, if it 
appears as the goal and summit of poetic activity, is only the 
first step of the stairway of mysticism, 

* Paul Claxidd, Positions et Propositions, I, 206. 


This, then, is our conclusion: Poetry has attained, in our 
times, to an awareness of its specific direction such as it never 
attained to in the past. Oh, this specific direction itself did 
exist, previously, in the real poets in Sceve and in Donne, 
in Racine and in Dante; but there never was this full awareness 
of poetry's specific nature. Yet poetry reached this awakening 
to full self-awareness only through a kind of original sin, when, 
a victim of its own dizzying loftiness, it thought it could not 
be save by determining to be all. Thus it became a captive of 
the dark angels and the butt of their derision. But perhaps 
upon emerging from this tragic adventure, on the difficult 
roads along which it now toils, it is in the process of dis- 
covering, in humility, its true dignity. 


Your Vision 

the World? 

IT is the very way the question is framed that nettles me. Am 
I to explain dutifully how I see the world? Then others will 
explain likewise their ways of seeing it. The collection of 
views will be presented. And the public will compare and 
choose. All this has little interest for me. For accepting this 
challenge already constitutes a choice. It is the choice of 
singularity as against truth. What I think is not important. 
The important thing is to know what is. And if I cannot tell 
what is, it is better for me to be silent. But is asserting that 
what one says is truth not pretentiousness, an insult to others, 
and intolerable self-conceit? It would be so if speaking of 
truth were a way of justifying and reassuring one's self. But 
to speak truth is to convict both one's self and others at the 
same time. And it is even the only way to bring any and every 
self-justification into court. 

The first question is one of method. Now, the essential 
principle of method is distinction of realms. Pascal, because he 
had the outlook of geometry, knew that the spirit of geometry 
is incommensurable with the realities of the human person. 
"A single thought of a man is worth more than all the uni- 



verse," said St. John of the Cross. Making man a part of 
nature is the first error and also reducing human history to a 
part of natural history. When everything has been explained, 
there is left over what Jankelevich called the "I know not what'* 
and the "almost nothing," the indefinable something which is 
precisely everything. And the error lies in failing to recognize 
that this "almost nothing" is ''everything." 

Primitive experience is essentially global. But it is the very 
business of the mind to distinguish among the various levels, 
the various planes of existence, each irreducible to any other. 
The complete man is one who expresses himself on all the 
levels. "Christianity," said Jacques Riviere, "is that which allows 
the maximum of feelings at every instant." The universe of 
scientism is one which imprisons itself in the world of geometry. 
It is the universe of marxism. It is the world of ennui, of 
repetition. Simone de Beauvoir rightly depicted it under this 
aspect in Tous les hommes sont mortels. It is characterized by 
a feeling of captivity, of being stifled. But there exists also a 
prison of spiritualism. 

The only universe where I can really breathe is the one 
where I can pass from one level to another. It is the universe 
of correspondences. When the lightning cracks, the old peasant 
woman makes the sign of the cross; the village schoolteacher 
laughs at her. Is lightning anything but the discharge of 
atmospheric electricity? It is the old woman who is right; and 
it is not she who is being silly. Here I am one with Guenon 
in his contempt for positivism. The lightning storm has also a 
sacral dimension. It is a hierophany, Eliade was to say. That 
it is, as well. It exists on several planes of existence. And 
intelligence consists in understanding this. Baudelaire detected 
a certain mediocrity of mind in ineptitude at grasping the 
sacral dimension of the cosmos. But Guenon was wrong in 

What Is Your Vision of the World? 63 

rejecting the criticism of the scientific mind. For it is by the 
test of that criticism that the substantiality of the sacred is 
made plain. 

I approve minds applied to, and submitted to, the real, able 
to be instructed by it. And I willingly take Bergson's tack when 
he distinguishes between the realm of matter and the realm of 
memory. It is the business of the intelligence to distinguish. 
Nothing is more frightful than what Riviere called "manque de 
crete" indifference such as no longer perceives the various 
realms in their heterogeneity. I understand Max Scheler when 
he shows that personal love cannot be explained in terms of 
sexual love or of crowd psychology. And I read twice when 
Du Bos' pages distinguish among Shelley's cosmic spiritual in 
which personal life dissolves, Wordsworth's personal spiritual, 
which supposes access to responsibility, and Berulle's divine 
spiritual, which is divine inspiration. 

The danger always lies in reduction which is an impoverish- 
ment. The honest thing is to acknowledge things that are 
irreducible. That is why I distrust dialectic. Or rather, I protest 
against its abuse. There can be dialectic within a given realm: 
Thus liberty and community are the two poles of every economic 
dialectic, and are always relative to each other. But dialectic 
never enables us to pass from one realm to another. There is 
no dialectic of spirit and matter, time and eternity, good and 
evil. There is contrariety or contradiction. 

Similarly, I am opposed to every thoroughgoing evolutionism, 
whether biological or technological. The idea that the matu- 
ration of matter can end up in the birth of spirit, or that 
technological progress can modify man morally, has always 
seemed to me the prime example of a lack of discernment It 
is true that there is a biosphere, a noosphere, and a Christo- 
sphere. They correspond to the three realms of Pascal. But, 


and this is the point, it must be insisted with Pascal that there 
is no passing from one to another of these, which are irreducible 
universes through which an integral experience is extended. It 
is a childish notion to suppose that the movement of time brings 
us towards eternity. Eternity is the passage to a different plane. 

Just as there is a prison of matter, so there is a prison of spirit, 
inclosing man within himself. Spirit is a highly equivocal 
word. It defines a level of being that of liberty and of 
thought. Yet this is but one level. Spiritualism fixes itself upon 
this level and incloses itself there. It is just as much closed, in 
this sense, as materialism. It presumes to bring everything 
under its jurisdiction. The spirit of man thus becomes the 
measure of being. It constitutes the highest plane of being. 
Such is the idea of the various humanisms and personalisms. 
Respect for others becomes the sole norm of conduct. Individual 
or collective, this humanism refers man only to himself, and 
absorbs him in the contemplation of his own greatness. It is 
correct in acknowledging the transcendence of spirit as regards 
nature; but it limits itself to this level. 

Here again we must return to Pascal. All spirits taken 
together do not equal one act of charity. And for Pascal, as a 
good Augustinian, the realm of charity is that of divine love 
and the supernatural life. This realm can be called spiritual, 
but spiritual then refers, not to the life of the spirit, but to 
the life of the Holy Spirit. It is not the spirit's becoming aware 
of its immanence to itself, but of the divine power which 
raises it above itself. After traversing the world of bodies and 
the starry sky, Idythius penetrates first into the interior universe, 
into the sphere of the spirit, and circles upon the celestial 
vault; but he does not stop there; he launches beyond himself, 
discovering, more interior to himself than himself, the primor- 
dial source from which at every instant his personal existence 

What Is Your Vision of the World? 65 

Adoration is a dimension of every integral humanism. It is 
always a falling short to be powerless to open one's self to the 
special realm of greatness which is constituted of divine 
splendors. For biblical humanism, man is at once king of the 
universe and the subject of God. Six days are given him in 
which to subdue nature to himself by his labors. But the 
seventh is the day on which, by adoration, he recognizes God's 
sovereignty over him. A world without prayer is not simply an 
irreligious world, it is an inhuman world. The true city, says 
La Pira, is "the one where men have their houses and where 
God has his house." A world which is only a world of work, 
and not a world of liturgy, is a world where one cannot breathe. 
Prayer is a struggle to save man from asphyxiation. 

Exactness of thought requires the acknowledgment of the 
various levels even when the thinker has not reached them all. 
Giving testimony to the truth consists in judging one's self, 
and not in justifying one's self. It may be that I cannot fulfil 
myself on each of the levels. But it is one thing to be blind, 
and another to deny the existence of the light. And that is why 
it is possible to be at once sincere and true, "I have jumped 
man," Rilke had the courage to say, in his vertiginous passage 
from animal to angel. But that was not denying man. I do not 
know God, the thinker has the right to say. But this does not 
mean: There is no God. And perhaps this is precisely what 
intelligence consists in not being imprisoned in experience, 
but being able to judge experience in the name of truth. 

It must be clear that we are concerned here, not with what 
will sit most comfortably, but with rigor of method. Similarly, 
acknowledgment of a transcendent order is the very opposite 
of an easy way out. It constitutes a most terrible menace to my 
desire to be my own man, and to be self-sufficient. It brings 
into my life love and love's huge unsettlingness. It is no 


security against adventure, but acceptance of adventure. And 
that is why I dread it. The most clearsighted recognize this. 
They call for respite in order to fulfil themselves. The weight 
of divine glory seems to them too heavy to bear. They 
jealously defend a world cut to their measure, a human world, 
as against a world divine, of outrageous measure, and inhuman. 

So should I like to shut myself up in my own realm, and to 
have none but tasks suited to me and apt to give me satisfaction. 
But it does not depend on me to be thrown into this abyss 
where eternity does not permit me even to recognize myself 
and where I must learn at last that it is in deprivation that 
riches consist. A world tailored to me would be more re- 
assuring. I should feel myself more at home there. I am loath 
to go outside my familiar horizon. Now, God is precisely 
what will never be familiar to me, and will never cease to be 
a source of astonishment to me, and of holy dread. That is, at 
least, if we are speaking of the real God not of one who is 
only the projection of my frustrated desires, but of one whose 
irruption tumbles down the flimsy constructions in which I 
thought to take refuge. 

Here a new aspect of the question comes into view. Up to 
this point, reality was exhibiting its various levels before my 
eyes. All that was required of me was to be attentive. I 
grasped its various levels both in their irreducibleness and in 
their mutual correspondences. For if they constituted hetero- 
geneous realms, still they displayed a whole collection of inter- 
connections, which make up the universe of analogy. The 
world is in the image of God. Thus passage between the two is 
possible; and the universe of contemplation consists in this 
marvelous aptitude the mind has to move in a world of multiple 
dimensions without being imprisoned in any of them, nor even 
in itself. God in this sense is freedom. 

What Is Your Vision of the World? 67 

But in this universe, I am not simply a spectator. I know 
it so well only because I am involved in it. It is not only 
symbolic, but dramatic. God is not simply the supreme realm in 
the hierarchy of essences; he is also the totality of being, the 
existence on which all existence is basically dependent. And 
here comes the fundamental difficulty. If God exists, how can 
anything exist outside God, since the fulness of existence is 
exhausted once and for all in him ? What interest does existence 
hold for me if all I can do is repeat, in some worse way, what 
has once and for all been accomplished perfectly? Does not 
God's existence thus cancel out my existence? 

It is certainly true that God's existence throws any claim of 
mine out of court. Yet for all that it does not destroy my 
existence, but only stops my appropriation of my existence. It 
enjoins me to acknowledge it as received, from each instant to 
the next. ''What powers do you have, that did not come to you 
by gift? And if they came to you by gift, why do you boast of 
them, as if there were no gift in question?" [1 Cor. 4:7} There 
exactly is the condition of created being. It implies a radical 
dependence. I do not exist save as I am (like a word) being 
uttered by another. And ratifying my existence means recog- 
nizing this dependence. But this comes in conflict with my 
passion to belong to myself. The clearsighted man grasps this 
very well. He knows that what is, always is "by gift." That is 
why he takes refuge in non-acceptance. "This at least is mine, 
all mine/* said Riviere of his sins. 

But this declaration of my dependence should be for me the 
most exalting of discoveries. It means in effect that I do not 
exist save as I am loved. It radically destroys my solitude. 
To exist means my being already in connection with another. 
And ratifying my existence means recognising this relationship; 
and responding to this gift by giving thanks means having 


found my way to communication. Nor is any inferiority implied 
by this relationship, which corresponds, instead, to the very 
structure of being. The Christian dogma of the Trinity ex- 
presses, in effect, this paradoxical reality: that three is as pri- 
mordial as one, which is to say that love is coeternal with 
existence and plays its part in the structure of being, at the 
utter bottom of things. And hence this relative character of 
mine is nothing but the created epiphany of the uncreated 

With this, I came to the second fundamental certainty. The 
first was the distinction of realms. The second is the evidential 
quality of love. I might doubt, strictly, the exterior world. It is, 
in a sense, interior to me, and might be only the projection 
of my mind. But I cannot doubt the reality of another than 
myself. It is love which brings me in touch with the undoubt- 
able, that is, with what resists me, with what I do not have at 
my disposition, with what I cannot refuse the right to exist 
apart from me, and with what I am forced to acknowledge the 
value of. "Every license, save against love/* said Barres, And 
love is in fact the only thing by virtue of which I cannot refuse 
to be limited without renouncing my own self. 

Now, what is true of this other is eminently true of God. 
God is signally the one who resists me. It is indeed by virtue 
of that fact that he forces himself upon me. For if I had 
invented him, I should have made him more accommodating, 
But I recognize that it is for this very reason that he disturbs 
me, that he upsets my settled notions and my disposition to run 
my life as I please. I am faced with this paradox. It is pre- 
cisely because I do not want him to exist that I am forced to 
recognize that he does exist. I am far too interested in having 
him not exist for ine not to view with suspicion my wish that 
this were the situation. I first leam to acknowledge him through 

What Is Your Vision of the World? 69 

my vain attempts to bend him to my wishes; he will subse- 
quently teach me to love him by trying to bend my wishes to his. 
Thus the world of existence reveals itself to us as a universe 
of persons united by love. Theological ontology is an ontology 
of love. Love exists eternally in God in the Trinity of the 
divine Persons. The community of spiritual persons united by 
love is an epiphany of the divinity which is Trinity. And 
between the divine Trinity and the human community there 
exists a bond of love and of communication which is the 
Person of Christ, true God and true man, "in whom God has 
reconciled all things among themselves and with himself/* and 
who is thus mediator of all things, the cosmic tree reuniting 
what is below and what is on high, what is East and what is 
West, by the outreaching sign of his cross. 

And this brings us to the third indubitable truth, which is 
history. History is the junction-point of symbol and drama, the 
perspective in which all things assume meaning. It is by nature 
a disclosure, for it bears not upon necessities but upon facts, 
because it is the domain of grace. It alone is mystery properly 
speaking for St. PauL For mystery is the hidden secret of the 
destiny of mankind and of the cosmos. And only the immolated 
Lamb of the Apocalypse opens the book sealed with the seven 
seals and containing it: "The gods have buried the secret of 
the descent of things somewhere, but where then have they 
hidden the stone which covers it, o Melibeus?" It is to this 
question in the Centaure that the Lamb supplies the answer. 

Here again it is Pascal who gives us the rule of method when 
he shows that what corresponds to the realm of charity is the 
spirit of prophecy. There are three indubitables: The first is 
matter, to which the spirit of geometry corresponds; the second 
is the person, to which corresponds the spirit of shrewdness; 


the third is Jesus Christ, and here there corresponds the spirit 
of prophecy. Each of these realms envelops the preceding one. 
Spirit envelops matter, but Jesus Christ in turn envelops spirit. 
He is himself the Logos, divine Reason and Power, "through 
whom all things were made," who irrupts into time to repossess 
the creation which belongs to him in order to bring it to 
maturity, give it its ultimate meaning, fit it into an intelligible 
history. Jesus Christ is the Truth in the realest sense, that is, 
it is he in whom is revealed the ultimate and hidden sense of 

History here indicates first of all that there are divine works 
mirabilia. The Bible is this history of the works of God, 
which are of another order than the works of men, their great 
inventions, their masterpieces. But the works of God are 
greater and of another order, which is the order of charity, to 
which I am introduced by the spirit of prophecy, which is under- 
standing of sacred history in the light of the Holy Spirit, who 
is the author of that history. "J esus Christ *nade no great 
inventions. But he was holy, holy, holy, Holy to God, terrible 
to the devil/' There is an order of greatness which is that of 
the greatnesses of Jesus Christ. And Pascal, who knew the 
greatnesses of geometry and the greatnesses of thought, knew 
that those of Jesus Christ surpassed them infinitely. The right 
niind is one which recognizes each order of greatness for what 
it is. 

History next means eschatology, that is, tension towards the 
last outcome of all. It is this that basically diiferentiates the 
mythical vision and the biblical vision. In the mythical vision, 
the essential event existed as an archetype in primordial time. 
And concrete time is never anything but degradation, forever 
combated by rite. In contrast, for the Bible the essential event 
is looked for in the future. "No longer remember the things 
that are past. Behold, I shall work a new wonder." Creation is 

What Is Your Vision of the World? 71 

a prospect. That is to say that the brightness of the first creation 
will be lost in the brightness of the new creation. History pro- 
ceeds from glory to glory. At the end of his long wanderings, 
Odysseus, the man of the cosmic religion, returns to the place 
from which he started. In Greek, the Odyssey is called nostot 9 
meaning turnings home. Odysseus is the man of nostalgia, who 
is in quest of the irremediably lost time of the paradise of 
childhood. In contrast, Abraham, the man of historical religion, 
left Ur and its familiar scenes forever, to go forward in pure 
faith towards the unknown land which God would show him. 

History indicates in the third place that the eschatological 
event is already with us. This is what Cullmann has shown in 
his book on Christ and time. This fact condemns exclusive 
faith in progress, just as eschatology condemns exclusive faith 
in tradition. And here is the greatest paradox of the faith. It 
consists in asserting that just as nothing in the past had been 
of so great importance as Jesus Christ, so no discovery or 
invention, no revolution will ever bring us anything as impor- 
tant as Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is therefore the last end, that 
beyond which there is nothing that is, he in whom salvation is 
already given. This does not mean that after him there is no 
time, but that time which follows him is in some sense interior 
to him and is constituted by the extension of his dimensions, 
until the Church, which is his body, has attained its fulness. 

Thus history is not the homogeneous movement, whether 
cyclic or evolutive, of natural history. It is differentiated into 
heterogeneous epochs, of which Jesus Christ constitutes the 
central point of articulation. And this is true, not only of 
human history, but also of cosmic history, embracing all reality. 
The earth is not the physical center of the universe, as medieval 
science believed; nor is it necessarily the center of complexity, 
the central axis of evolution, as Teilhard de Chardin believed; 
but it is the theological center, inasmuch as it is the place 


wherein was accomplished the decisive event for all creation, 
material or spiritual, past, present, or future. "In him all things 
have their subsistence," said Paul. 

It is still true that between these heterogeneous epochs there 
are correspondences the analogy of the divine operations with 
the various moments of the history of salvation. Thus the 
coming forth from Egypt, the resurrection of Christ, baptism, 
and the resurrection on the last day are all analogous operations 
of deliverance. Here there arises a new symbolism, which is 
this relation of the successive moments of the history of salva- 
tion. The knowledge of these correspondences is the content of 
prophecy. And since the history of salvation subsumes all 
history, it also embraces natural history and human history. 
Thus the various realms, or orders, which we have distinguished 
not only indicate different densenesses of existence, but spread 
before us like the stages of total history. 

The drama we have spoken of takes on, in turn, an historical 
dimension. It is not only the timeless confrontation of God and 
man. It is the conflict between two histories; one consisting of 
the unfolding of God's designs; the other, of the unfolding of 
men's designs. This conflict of the two histories St. Augustine 
described in his City of God. This, too, is a history cosmic in 
nature. It is the conflict between Christ and the forces of evil. 
For this reason the mystery of Christ is the mystery not only 
of the incarnation of the Word, but of his crucifixion as well. 
It reached its climax when the Word descended into hell, that 
is, into the abyss of evil inaccessible to man's good will, in 
order to destroy evil in its poisonous root and to open for man- 
kind on the day of the resurrection transfigured existence. 

* * * 
In the presence of death, all speech is superficial. It is a mere 

What Is Your Vision of the World? 73 

noise of words, with which we try to distract or perhaps re- 
assure ourselves. But silence is better. Only one thing merits 
utterance in the face of death, and that is an acknowledgment 
of the resurrection of the dead. "In short/' wrote Brice Parain, 
"there are really only two solutions: strict anonymity or the 
resurrection of the flesh in glory." But this is a hard word, and 
who can listen to it? It convicts me in my reasoning and 
judges me in my actions. But that is why I can utter it, 
because it is not my word, but the Word. I have listened to It 
and I have believed it. And because I have believed it, I must 
speak it in my turn. It is a scandal for the Jew in me, it is 
folly for the Greek in me. But it is precisely because it is 
neither the word of the Jew nor the word of the Greek that 
it is the Word of God and that it is truth. 





OUR RESPONSIBILITY to assert our faith in the presence of the 
men of our time is a singular one. For what we assert is really 
something improbable; and it is normal for us to come up at 
first against an attitude of incredulity. What I mean by that 
is that the assertions required of us by our faith, namely, that 
the destiny which is ours goes beyond the frontiers of this life, 
since we are called by God to an eternal destiny; that the 
essential event of human history has already taken place; that 
never will any revolution or any amount of scientific progress 
bring us anything so important as the resurrection of Jesus 
Christ these are affirmations of singular audacity. 

They therefore confront us with a heavy intellectual respon- 
sibility. These assertions have we the right to make them? 
Have we the right to involve the full responsibility of our 
liberties with them? Is the question here one simply of our 
preaching a view of the world which seems congenial to us; 
or, instead, do we really have the right, and the duty, to declare 
to every man, no matter who he is, that he will one day be 
judged by Jesus Christ, and that this trial is the only one of 
ultimate importance in any and every human life? Have we 
the right and duty to say to some marxist associate of ours: 



"Because I really love you, I am obliged to tell you that one day 
you are going to be judged by Jesus Christ/' For this is what 
we mean by "believing. That is to say that Christianity is not 
one philosophy side by side with a number of other philos- 
ophies, but the ultimate truth about man's destiny. Well, does 
Christianity really mean that for us? And doesn't the feebleness 
of our testimony come from our perhaps not having faith? 

So, before thinking of giving the faith to others, we have to 
examine ourselves to determine whether we have it ourselves. 
Now one sure thing is that the way most of us conduct ourselves 
gives others the impression that we do not have faith. For, 
watching us, they say to themselves: "If it were really true 
what they say, then it ought to show up in their lives in some 
much more striking way." And often, in fact, we give un- 
believers the impression that we are attached to Christianity, 
of course, as a way of looking at life that happens to suit us 
best, but not that it is the truth, period, that is, the only sense 
there is to man's life, a meaning that is God's plan and that 
every man must face up to. This is not a question of dog- 
matism; it is not a question of our wishing to impose our views 
on other people. In fact, it is not a question of our views at all. 
The faith is not something I adhere to because it is a world 
view that pleases me. We do not pick out our faith as we pick 
out a hat. I was recently talking with a young woman who said 
to me: "My husband tells me that by nature he is more 
Protestant than anything/' The problem is not to determine 
whether Protestantism suits me best, or whether Buddhism suits 
me best, or whether Catholicism suits me best. One is not a 
Protestant because he has a taste for a certain liberty; one is 
not a Catholic because of whatever imaginable connivance with 
authority. One is a Catholic because he thinks Catholicism is 
true. And whether that suits me or upsets me, pleases me or 

Foundations of the Faith 77 

displeases me, puts me at ease or makes me ill at ease, I am 
obliged to profess it as true for myself and for other people. 

Thus all this is a serious matter. Speaking of the faith is a 
grave responsibility. It is a responsibility which we assume in 
the presence of other people. We must therefore determine 
what this means. What I should like to do is just to examine 
myself to see what the faith means, what its nature is, and what 
its claims are. Have I really the right to believe all these things, 
in all intellectual honesty? Have I the right to stake my intelli- 
gence on the word of Jesus Christ? Have I the right to assert 
that it is the final answer to man's fate, to the riddles which 
it poses? 

The first thing to be done is to determine what realm faith 
is in. There is in most men a religious sense. Atheism is a 
modern phenomenon in the first place, and, in the second place, 
a phenomenon ultimately less widespread than people think. 
Recently I heard the pastor of a large Paris parish tell me that 
the more contact he had with working-class circles the more he 
noticed how ready they were to receive the Christian message; 
and he added: "More, alas, than in middle-class circles/ 1 It is 
sure that there is in every human soul an openness to the sacred, 
to mystery, to the world beyond, and that what in Jaspers* 
language are called "limit situations" confrontation of suffer- 
ing, love, death, liberty put man in the presence of realities 
which he is quite well aware transcend him. And, from this 
point of view, it may be said that the religious sense is a part 
of human nature. I myself think that its disappearance con- 
stitutes a maiming of human nature, and that a man in whom 
there is not openness to God is a man mutilated in an essential 
part of himself. 

Of this quest for God it may be said that "religions" are 


the expression. And, in this sense, all religions have their 
truth, and we must give them their due as representing what I 
shall call man's quest for God. Men have always sought for 
God. And each religion is the way in which men of one age 
or of one land have given this quest life. We have only to 
read some of the religious books of India (I am thinking of 
the Bhagavadgita) , certain poems by the great Moslem mystics 
(I am thinking of Al-Hallaj, whose wonderful mystical poems 
Louis Massignon has published) , we have only to be in contact 
with the African world to grasp what a wealth of deep religious 
values are to be found in all the civilizations of the world. 
This constitutes what I shall call the "religious world," which 
is not yet the world of the faith. One may wonder whether, in 
our time, the crisis within this religious world is not like an 
obstacle preliminary to the wakening of faith. But what con- 
cerns me for what I am trying to define here is that we are not 
yet at this moment in the actual realm of faith. It is not neces- 
sary to be Christian in order to believe there is a God. All 
human civilizations have this religious aspect. It may be said 
that religions are part of the patrimony of the human race and 
represent one of its essential riches. 

In the domain of faith we reach quite another order. Belief 
does not mean believing there is a God; it means believing that 
God intervenes in human life. The object of faith is an event, 
or a series of events. Belief means, in effect, believing that God 
spoke to Abraham, freed the people from Egypt, became flesh 
in the womb of Mary, raised up from among the dead the 
humanity to which he was united, and is present in the rnidst of 
us in the Holy Eucharist And that is the supreme paradox. For 
men in fact do allow that we acknowledge, in a higher world, 
a divinity which surpasses us. But that God intervenes in the 
course of human life, and that in the midst of us there are 

Foundations of the Faith 79 

divine operations going on this seems absolutely scandalous. 
This latter in fact is what the greater part of men reject. They 
reject the supernatural. 

Now that is exactly what the faith asserts. The sacred book 
of Christians is not some or other treatise of religious philos- 
ophy, it is a history Sacred History. To believe means to 
accept the Bible, the Old and the New Testament. Now, what 
the Old and New Testaments contain is history. But there are 
two histories. There is the history of the great things men 
have done since the beginning, the history of the great cultures, 
the history of science, the history of discoveries and inventions, 
and political history; and this history is real history; it is the 
story of the great works of man; and it gives glory to man. 
We, however, we believe that there is another history, more 
profound. That is to say, there are things which are not man's 
work, but God's, and these works of God are infinitely greater 
than the greatest works of man. They surpass, that is, as Pascal 
put it, the works of man in proportion as the order of charity 
surpasses the order of intelligence and the order of physical 
bodies. To be a Christian, then, is to believe that there are 
divine operations in our midst, and that these divine operations 
are what constitute the greatest thing in the world. To be a 
Christian is to believe that a Therese of Lisieux in her Car- 
melite convent is more important in the hierarchy of values 
than the greatest of political figures or the greatest of scientists. 
For her importance is of another, and greater, order. 

And to be a Christian is to believe that these divine opera- 
tions are not merely past events, but that we are living in the 
full tide of sacred history, that we are living in a world in 
which God continues to act, and that, as the Protestant exegete 
Cullmann has so beautifully put it, the sacraments are the 
continuation into the time of the Church of the great works of 


God in the Old and in the New Testament. This is the mag- 
nificent proclamation which it is ours to make. This one thing 
we have to say to the marxists, to the atheistic humanists, 
namely, that they miss perceiving the most profound dimension 
of human existence, which is the one which God brings about 
in man; ultimately, then, we reproach them with being super- 
ficial with reaching, that is, only the surface of man, and 
failing to plumb the abysses of existence. 

The more I study marxism, what strikes me most is this 
same shockingly superficial quality. There may be found in it 
some things that have validity on the level of the world of 
appearances, on the level of the dialectic of economic life for 
example; but it leaves untouched what constitutes man's most 
essential side. And this is why we are so keenly aware, in re- 
jecting marxism, that what we are defending is not only God, 
but man. It is man in the fulness of his dimension, in his three- 
fold relationship, that is, to the world, to other people, and to 
God. And that is why we shall never desist from our assertion 
of the divine dimension of human existence, because it seems 
to us a constituent of the only integral humanism, the only one 
that gives full justice to the dignity of human nature. 

But let us turn directly to the substance of the act of faith. 
To believe means to believe that the Word of God was made 
flesh in the womb of Mary. You see the insolence of such an 
assertion. In the presence of a marxist, of an atheist, of a 
scientist, we know what it will provoke. We can imagine what 
they will begin to say. If we do not dare to take the responsi- 
bility for our faith in all its paradoxicalness, if we let it be 
understood that it might be only a more or less mythological 
representation of some or other subjective phenomenon, then 
we have already begun to lighten the ship, and from that 
moment on have charted a career of betrayals. To be a 

Foundations of the Faith 81 

Christian, in contrast, means insisting that nothing more nor 
less than this divine irruption into human life is exactly the 
joyous news, the magnificent, the splendid message that we 
proclaim. But being a Christian also means being capable of 
justifying this assertion in our own eyes and in other people's 
eyes, and our claim to the right to make it. 

Regarding the object of faith I should like to make the final 
point that, since it bears on a divine event, it can only be one 
and universal. It is not the expression of the religious sensi- 
bility of one people or of one race. There is no worse betrayal 
of the Gospel than to be willing to make it out to be the religion 
of the West. Christianity is not one certain vision of the world. 
It is not a system which we accept because it suits us. The 
one and only problem is to determine whether something did 
happen. There is no other question. Did Christ rise from the 
dead or not? If so, this is of absolute interest for any and 
every man. We are not talking about a symbolization or 
projection, but about a real event. The question, then, is 
determining whether this event is real If I am not persuaded 
that it is so, then I do not have the faith. I may have a 
Christian sensibility, I may be desirous that the spiritual values 
which are those of the Gospel will remain those of the free 
world, and that civilization will be inspired by the liberal 
principles I call the Christian mystique rather than by the 
socialist doctrine of the "people's democracies/' But from that 
moment on, what I am defending is not the faith, it is some 
liberty or other, which does not come very high anyhow, of 
whose lesser worth I am aware, and which, like many of my 
contemporaries, I take advantage of while I have it, but with 
the vague feeling that it is not worth a whole lot of bother 
to defend. 

We think we have the right to express the affirmations of 


our faith; we have the right to express them to everyone; and 
in particular we have the right to tell them to our atheist 
associates; and, if we have the right, we have necessarily the 
duty to do so. For if we express it, it is not as a personal 
opinion, such as we might hesitate to force on other people, but 
as a fact, one that forces itself upon us, whether it is agreeable 
to us or disagreeable, whether it follows the line of our own 
thinking or runs counter to it, whether we find consolation in 
it or, instead, it is something that balks our determination to run 
our lives as we please. For me, one of the least satisfactory 
proofs for the existence of God is the following: "I have a 
desire for happiness. But no earthly object can fully satisfy 
this desire. Therefore, God exists." Were I an unbeliever, this 
reasoning would immediately arouse my suspicions. I should 
already have a deep-seated impression that God is only the 
projection into infinity of a certain emotional need of mine 
and that it was I who was fashioning him in my own image. 
No, I experience the fact that he exists because I run up against 
him and because, if ever it were I that had fashioned him, I 
should certainly have made quite a different job of it. As it is, 
I am obliged to accommodate myself to him. I am obliged to 
take him just as he is. No, I never made him, in my image. 
I am the one who finally has to come down to doing things 
his way. And there's the rub that makes me know I am in 
contact with the real: when I feel, that is, something which 
resists me, that I have no control of, and that, on the contrary, 
I must finally end up by adapting myself to, making way, 
giving up, against my will, and while dragging my feet. But 
there is no way out. This is the way it is, and I have to put up 
with it. Thus am I aware, in sober fact, that I am in the 
presence of something real, and no creation of my imagination 
or of my sensibility. 

Foundations of the Faith 83 

But for all that, it remains true that affirmation of the faith 
is an extravagant assertion all the same. The assertion in 
1962 of the resurrection of the body; the assertion in 1962 
of the incarnation of the Word in the womb of Mary all 
this is outstanding insolence. Do I have the right, in all 
intellectual honesty, and with all due rigor of thinking, to 
make these assertions to everybody? To so-and-so, who is a 
professor at the university? To so-and-so, the great medical 
specialist? To so-and-so, the great political figure. To Khrush- 
chev? To Nasser? Well, what my friend La Pira usually does, 
when he meets some statesman, is to tell him, right off, that 
God exists, and that the statesman will be judged by Christ. 
Only then can their conversation begin. The question is in- 
eluctable. The way so many Christians today put their Chris- 
tianity in their pocket and consider Christ as something optional 
is a singular delusion. For the question is to determine whether 
in fact Christ did arise from the dead. If he did, that fact must 
determine everything else. Christianity is not a matter of 
private life. If there is anything in the world that is public, 
that is official, it is Christianity! For it is something that con- 
cerns the ultimate destinies of the whole human race and 
which for that very good reason has to be taken into account 
by everybody. This is all that I am saying. And this is the 
weighty interrogation that we are sitting down to. And that is 
why we must test the solidity of the bases which are the 
foundations of our faith, so that it will not be, among us, 
simply the inheritance of a tradition, sentimentally dear to us, 
or the expression of a certain bent within our own sensibilities, 
but will be, after having passed through the sieve of a pitiless 
criticism, something that continues to hold up, so that we may 
hold to it in the fulness of an adult existence. 

Otherwise, there would always exist in us a more or less bad 


conscience. Faith, for most of us, is something we received 
from our families, from our circumstances of life. And it is 
a great grace to have received it in that way. But we reach an 
age when we have to embrace it in a personal manner, and 
embrace it as instinct with difficulties and beset by others* 
claims and questions. It must not fear critical examination. 
Criticism of this kind has a very great value, so long as it be 
remembered that its function is not to destroy, not to under- 
mine (as some of our contemporaries think its function to be) , 
but, on the contrary, to test things in order to see whether they 
stand up. Thus, the business of criticism is to reinforce what 
is solid and to unsettle what is not; or, if you prefer, looking 
at the matter in a different way, criticism is useful only when 
it is the expression of love when it is not, that is, primarily 
a desire to destroy, but the will to edify in truth. 

Now, there is no escaping the fact that if we take a look at 
the foundations of our faith, there come at once to mind a host 
of questions too many for treatment in this book, but the 
main ones of which I should like to call to mind, for at this 
point we reach the essential elements of conscious thought. 
Among scientists the difficulty is in effect that the intellectual 
instruments proper to them, of established accuracy in the 
domains for which they were made, are not utilizable for data 
in the domain of faith. Whence derives an impression, quite 
often, of not being on solid ground, of being confronted with 
a language where meanings are not hard and fast, of being in 
a field where anybody can say just about anything, since there 
is no way of determining the truth of anything. As a fellow 
taxi passenger said to me not very long ago, "It comes to this: 
Christianity can equally be proved true and be proved not 
true." The remark is very interesting. If you insist on this 

Foundations of the Faith 85 

man was a biologist methods that are proper to physiology, 
it is plain that you will have no instrument which will allow 
you to discern, on the level of the data of faith, what is to be 
retained and to say what is true and what is not true. Whence 
that feeling on the part of many scientists that in that realm 
one can say what one likes, and that ultimately I have heard 
great scientists say this you make your choice on purely sub- 
jective grounds. 

Here is something quite grave, first of all because if one 
chooses for purely subjective reasons, this means that one 
waives both justifying one's faith in one's own eyes and 
justifying it in other people's eyes. For, if it is only my feeling, 
well, then, I have no right to impose my feeling on other 
people. That would be intellectual imperialism indeed. I have 
the right simply to propose what I think. But having faith 
does not mean that at all. Having faith does not consist in 
saying: "I believe, for my part, that I think . . . anyhow, I 
just feel that Christianity is truth ..." Christ sent me forth 
into the world, and sent you my readers, whether priests or 
laymen, not to say, "My feeling is that . . .," but to proclaim 
the truth, and not my truth or your truth, but truth, period. 

Granted, there remains this great difficulty for scientific 
minds, namely, admitting that there can be evidence as rigorous 
in the order of testimony as in the order of positive sciences. 
This, I need not say, reveals a certain lack of any mind for 
metaphysics, a deficiency which by the way poses a very great 
problem from the point of view of scientific humanism. The 
problem of the scientists preoccupies me a great deal these 
days. I admire them very much. I think that the future belongs 
to them. But I think that the big thing they are going to need 
is the balance of a humanistic education such as their university 
unfortunately does not succeed in giving them and for which, 


consequently, they must look elsewhere. Here is a very great 
problem. Scientists are called upon to play a decisive role in 
the world of tomorrow. It is absolutely indispensable that they 
be furnished with instruments of thought and expression that 
are really philosophical, based on methods just as rigorous as 
the methods of positive sciences, but which require, as scientific 
methods do, a formal training. 

I confess that I am constantly saddened upon seeing, at 
various conventions, men who are very great scientists or very 
great technicians, who are strictly logical and exact when 
speaking about their speciality, but who, as soon as the talk 
turns to problems of civilization, are satisfied with the most 
lamentable vaguenesses about ''spiritual values" terms which 
cover no one has the slightest notion what, and among which 
reigns the most total confusion. And yet it would seem clearly 
necessary to know that, when one speaks of "liberty/' this can 
mean five different things at least and that, in this order, one 
can have quite as great precision as in the order of scientific 
problems. There is a rigor of philosophic thought that in its 
order is absolutely as valid as the rigor of scientific thought. 

The problem of testimony arises for men of letters, yet in 
a different way. The difficulty here is that speech has been so 
much abused that, finally, one's word is simply no longer taken. 
The abuse of their word is a characteristic of literary men. A 
scientist is often someone who has something to say and who is 
not capable of saying it; a literary man . . . This is grave. 
Our world is such an intelligent one! When you sit down with 
your weekly or monthly review (I read the Express) , you have 
to marvel at the "refinements," the subtleties of modern-day 
intelligence at its astonishing capacity to understand every- 
thing and to believe nothing. For that is precisely the definition 
of an intelligent man, according to one brand of intellectuality 

Foundations of the Faith 87 

today. In this view, the exercise of intelligence is the very 
purpose of intelligence. And the quality of the language is a 
more serious matter than any content of the writer's word. To 
believe in truth reveals in these people's eyes a medieval men- 
tality which is the stamp of only a few old-fashioned minds. 
This raises very serious questions. 

This is the great problem, and it is grave. For it is on a 
person's word in the very first instance that human relation- 
ships rest. For a world where people no longer believe other 
people's word is a world where any trust becomes out of the 
question. And it may be wondered whether this spirit of dis- 
trust is not poisoning personal relationships among men today. 
Is there not a kind of doubting-sickness at work at the core of 
men's souls and destroying even the possibility of communi- 
cation? And on the level even of our faith do we not harbor 
a low-grade infection of doubt, such as to make us wonder 
whether we have ever made an act of theological faith in the 
full sense of the word, that is, one in which our intelligence 
is engaged in totally eliminating every reserve, every evasion. 
I am speaking not of some kind of bet, but of an act totally 
involving our intelligence with the Word of Christ, without 
reserving anything to ourselves. And is there not, in this last 
bit of reserve which we keep so often in connection with faith 
itself, a certain determination on the part of our intelligence 
to depend exclusively upon itself, a certain difficulty in giving 
in, particularly under tibat pre-eminent form of surrender 
which is the surrender of the intelligence. This surrender we 
must never make easily; yet are there not cases where we have 
the right to make it? Here we reach the rode bottom of the 
reason why it is so hard for men of today to understand how an 
act of faith is possible and, even they admit it as possible, to 
make that act of faith in the full sense of the word. The very 


idea of being able to speak of absolute truth as based on testi- 
mony seems inacceptable. 

Now, staying on the human level, without speaking here 
yet of the testimony of the Gospel directly, we must say that 
testimony is a way of reaching certitude, a way as valid, in its 
order, as scientific demonstrations and experiments are in their 
order. Moreover, this way is the only one which affords access 
to one certain order of reality. This order of reality is nothing 
less than the order of persons. Now, if the universe of persons 
has infinite ascendancy over the order of the natural world, we 
must declare that the higher we go in the hierarchy of beings, 
the more does testimony, and not experimentation, become the 
means of knowledge. 

I shall explain these matters further. Experimentation has to 
do essentially with the order of things which are inferior to 
man. It bears upon objects. But some one else's person is 
something of which we can never make an object. We can 
know another person only to the extent that he chooses to reveal 
himself to us. And he can reveal himself to us only by giving 
us his word about himself. This is tantamount to saying that 
ultimately it is on another's word that we must rely in order to 
know him. And consequently, on this level, the testimony of 
some one's word is the sole means of communication among 
persons. How, then, if God is personal in a pre-eminent degree, 
and if even on the human level we cannot know the secret of 
others' persons except to the degree they choose to reveal it to 
us, how, I say, could we ever know the secret of God otherwise 
than in the measure in which God chooses to reveal it to us ? 

Testimony, then, appears as the mode of knowledge which 
corresponds to higher objects, and furthermore as a means of 
knowledge which is susceptible, in its own order, of a rigorous- 
ness quite equal to that of physical or mathematical demon- 

Foundations of the Faith 89 

stations in their order. This is obvious enough when we turn 
to historical sciences. No one would dream of questioning the 
existence of Napoleon or of Julius Caesar. Yet we do not 
know these men except through others' testimony. In the order 
of human relations, I do not know the love of another except 
through his own avowal. The problem is to determine whether 
I can place my trust in his word. Now, there are cases where 
I have, not only the right, but even the duty, to trust in this 
word, and where it would be absurd not to do so. Inability to 
trust others is one of the maladies of intelligence in our day. 

It is therefore legitimate under certain conditions to credit 
testimony as true. Are these conditions verified in the case of 
the testimony given by Christ? Here we are at the heart of 
the problem which we must undertake to solve. There is one 
preliminary question. It is really not worth delaying with; still, 
reference must be made to it, for even in this day and age we 
still meet people who ask it. It is the question of the historicity 
of Christ. It puts us in the area of historical sciences in the 
most commonplace sense of the word: Have we the right to 
consider the Gospels, St. Paul's Epistles, and the Acts of the 
Apostles as documents of a historicity sufficient to warrant our 
reliance on them for our assertion that a Jesus of Nazareth 
actually existed, and lived in Galilee? There is no doubt about 
it in the mind of any scholar of standing. And discoveries 
during recent years (I am thinking especially of the Qumran 
finds, with which I am personally occupied 4 ) in fact confirm the 
validity of the data presented to us in the Gospels. 

But this brings us, as a second step, beyond the Apostles* 
assertions about Christ, to what constitutes the very foundation 

* Cf . Jean Danielou, S J., The Dead Sea Scrolls and Primitive Christianity 
(Baltimore, Helicon Press) 1958. 


of our faith Christ's own assertions about himself. Here the 
problem is to determine whether Christ is so reliable a witness 
that, when he tells us that he is God come among men (an 
assertion, we repeat, in itself incredible) we have a right to 
believe him not only a right, but a duty. We have to be able, 
I mean, to say to our associates: "If you examine the problem 
objectively, you will be led to submit to the truth of what I am 
telling you; this is not a subjective opinion, but a reality which, 
I can honestly assure you, anyone in good faith will be brought 
to agree with." 

What are the data in question ? There is one thing that by 
and large the whole Gospel testifies to; that is that Christ 
presented himself not simply as a man, but as coming from 
God, and as being of the same order as God. That he did so 
is a primary fact, scientifically established. We are not here 
taking his discourses as evidence, for if it were a question of 
these alone, they could always be called into question, and 
parts pointed to as interpolations; no, we are taking the whole 
of Christ's behavior, during his entire life. What we are saying 
is that the life of Christ is inexplicable if he was not claiming 
for himself divine nature and divine authority. What I mean 
by that is that the public life of Christ was one long, constant 
conflict with the Jews. Now, the sole motive of the Jews' 
hostility towards Christ was the accusation of blasphemy 
brought against him. This accusation is the great witness to the 
divinity of Christ, because it was rendered by his adversaries, 
the testimony given by an adversary always being less suspect 
of complicity. 

This accusation of blasphemy, which the Jews never stopped 
bringing against Christ, reveals in effect that one thing is 
certain, namely, that Christ never stopped claiming for himself 
an authority equal to God's. Two or three examples of this 

Foundations of the Faith 91 

claim will suffice here. In the Sermon on the Mount Christ 
said: "You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and 
a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you that you should not offer 
resistance to injury/' Have heard that it was said by whom? 
By Yahweh, who had given the Decalogue on Sinai. Christ, 
therefore, was claiming for himself an authority equal to 
Yahweh's. Some years ago a rabbi said something to me which 
I have often quoted since: "You see, there is just one thing 
that we Jews have against Christ, and that is that he altered 
the Law. For the Law was given by God. And only God can 
alter what he has set forth/* My response was: "You could 
say nothing that would please me more. I shall borrow your 
whole argument. The Law was set forth by God; only God can 
alter what was set forth by God. Therefore, if Jesus believed 
he had a right to alter the Law, it must be that Jesus considered 
himself to be God/' The rabbi was giving me one of the most 
striking demonstrations of the divinity of Christ, or at least was 
giving me iron-clad proof that there is one thing absolutely 
certain, and that is that Christ represented himself to be God. 

Well, then, there are three solutions possible. One, he was 
a visionary, a mystic of some sort lost in the clouds and fancying 
himself God among men. Two, he was a liar; this thesis was 
sustained once, in the eighteenth century. Or, three, he was 
telling the truth, and, extraordinary though it seem, had the 
right to call himself the Son of God. Just three attitudes may 
be taken towards Christ as presented in the Gospels: putting 
him down as a madman, or else as a liar, or acknowledging, 
with all the improbability of the claim, that he was right. The 
tragedy of the Jewish people was that they had no other possi- 
ble choice than to believe in him or to condemn him to death. 
For if Christ had not the grounds for calling himself the Son 
of God, he was a monster of pride. And from the Jewish point 


of view he committed the worst of transgressions, a sacrilege 
which, no less for us today, is the greatest of all sacrileges, a 
man's ambition to make himself God. The greatness of Juda- 
ism, like the greatness of Islam, lies in its denouncing idolatry, 
in its insisting that "God alone is God," in its denouncing 
man's every pretention to make himself God. The only problem 
is to determine whether there is not one case, a unique case, 
when a person who was a man had the right to say that he was 

Now, is it possible to say that Christ was a madman, or a 
liar? There is one thing on which all men are in agreement, 
whether Christians, Jews, Moslems, Hindus, or even atheists, 
and that is that Jesus represents, at the very least, one of the 
very highest peaks of human nature. There are few men who 
do not love Christ. Gandhi considered him the greatest figure 
in human history. Mohammed, in the Koran, assigned him an 
elevated place, and saw in him the greatest of the prophets. 
The Jewish writer Edmond Fleg has given us an admirable 
work representing Jesus as seen by the wandering Jew. And 
numerous are the Jews today witness Robert Aron's recent 
book who consider Christ one of the most marvelous men 
whom the race of Israel has produced. A socialist like Barbusse 
wrote a book presenting Christ as one of the most admirable 
figures in the brotherhood of mankind. Thus, all men without 
exception are united in saying that Christ represents one of the 
peaks, and doubtless the highest peak, of human history. Is it 
possible to say at the same time that this man was a liar or a 

Since it is absolutely certain that on the human level Christ 
represented himself as being God, and since it is absolutely 
certain that on the human level he was one of the most admira- 
ble figures in human history, then this problem confronts every 

Foundations of the Faith 93 

man: That Christ was God is perhaps improbable; yet it would 
be a serious matter to reject Christ's testimony. If I refuse to 
accept his testimony, then no human witness is worthy of belief. 
For if I have no right to believe Christ, whom have I grounds 
for believing? And I therefore do have the right, in all con- 
science, with clear mind and with full intellectual rigor, to 
say: "What Christ said is in fact improbable; and yet I must 
consider that he seems to me a witness of such genuineness 
that I have the right, on grounds of faith in his testimony, to 
believe the improbable." 

I must add that up to this point I have restricted myself to 
a field accessible not only to a Christian, but also to a Jew, a 
Moslem, or any man. In what I have said until now, I have 
included nothing which calls faith into play, nothing that 
cannot be accepted by any just man. Thereafter comes the final 
and decisive step, whereby I shall see in Christ not only human 
testimony such as appears to me a guarantee of credibility, but 
the very word of God made man. The adherence of my 
intelligence in its supreme expression will rest upon God's very 
word as upon an absolutely unshakable rock. At that moment 
I shall make my act of faith, commit my intelligence absolutely 
on the testimony of Jesus Christ, and have found an unshakable 
position from which I can confront all difficulties, all objec- 
tions, and all doubts. 

I shall add, finally, that Christ has given as a mission to his 
Church the transmitting of this testimony from generation to 
generation. The Church is nothing other than a group of men 
officially delegated by the Trinity with the duty of announcing 
perpetually, to all men, without exception, the coming judg- 
ment and the salvation given by Christ to enable them to do 
penance. The Church in particular speaks to Khrushchev, to 
Mao Tse-tung, to Nehru, to Nasser, to the chiefs of state of all 


the world. The Church has the duty, perpetually, to tell all men 
what concerns every man without exception. And this testi- 
mony, when we have studied it throughout the two thousand 
years during which we have seen it developed, when we have 
seen its permanence throughout all the vicissitudes of the 
individuals who have borne it, when we have seen its fecundity 
in the souls of the saints, will then appear, itself, something so 
solid that we cannot fail to acknowledge in it the work of God 
nor to feel that we have an absolute right to place trust in it. 

We are not here preaching our own ideas. We are simply 
saying to those around us: "I give you my assurance that here 
is something real, something to which you ought to be attentive, 
something which is truly essential in a man's life. And this I 
tell you because I love you and because I sincerely desire to see 
you share the discovery which has been mine/' In such a case, 
the witness we bear has nothing about it of any sort of propa- 
ganda, or of any sort of intrusion into the lives of others; it is 
simply the desire to share the evidence of what we live by, the 
ultimate certitude which we possess ourselves. 

I shall conclude by answering a final objection. I recall a 
meeting where once upon a time an eminent professor of the 
Sorbonne told us: "What puts me off about the faith is a 
certain comfortableness, something a thought middle class, 
something a shade like having arrived as regards one's think- 
ing.'* Is it absolutely sure that what kept that man from being 
a Christian was the fear of comfort? Is it an absolutely sure 
thing that it is more comfortable to be Christian than to be not 
Christian ? As for me, I am not persuaded of that at all. What 
I am convinced of, in contrast, is that the condition of a Chris- 
tian, to the extent that being a Christian means agreeing to be 
at the disposition of someone else, is something extraordinarily 

Foundations of the Faith 95 

uncomfortable! And you know it very well. When it comes 
right down to it, what puts you off is that once you set the 
wheels rolling you don't know how far you're liable to go. 
No, this, we know very well, is what keeps those without faith 
from having faith. And it is also what keeps those who do 
have faith from having more faith. We know, as Riviere put it 
so well, that 'love involves staggering complications." We are 
always taking something upon ourselves when we introduce 
somebody else into our life, even from the human point of 
view. We know that no longer shall we be altogether our own 
man. Therein lies the adventuresomeness of human love as 
well as the self-sacrifice involved in it. When it comes down 
to it, if a man wishes to be undisturbed, he just has to give up 
the notion of marrying. Well, then! To allow Christ to enter 
our life is a terrible, terrible, terrible risk. What will it lead 
to? And faith is precisely that. 

So, no one will ever bring me to believe that faith is some 
kind of comfort. To take Christ seriously means allowing the 
irruption into one's life of Absolute Love, and allowing one's 
self to be led on to heaven knows what point, And this very 
risk is at the same time a deliverance, for, when all is said and 
done, we know very well that we ultimately desire just one 
thing absolute love and in the final tally, if it despoils us of 
ourselves, it leads us to what is better than ourselves. This 
means and this is what seems to me essential that faith is 
not a way of landing on one's feet at the end of intellectual 
adventures, a sort of quiet one rewards one's self with after 
intellectual turmoil. Faith is not an end. It is a beginning, 
It introduces our intelligence into the most marvelous of 
adventures, into what is its real destiny, namely, one day to 
contemplate the Trinity. It is a magnificent act in which, 
sensing the limits of our own understanding, we allow the 


uncreated Word of God to seize our intelligence and elevate 
it above itself to enable it to breast its highest hills. 

Nor will this adventure ever have an end, The Church is 
magnificently optimistic enough to hold that the faith will 
seize us to wrest us from our individual slaveries and catch us 
up in an adventure which will fill our eternity and will consist 
in the ever more astonished discovery of the living God. How 
this is supposed to have some kind of taint of middle-class life 
or of comfortableness I just can't say. 



of Life 

and Death 

CHRISTIAN REVELATION is not one explanation among others 
which man has given himself of the riddle of his existence. Nor 
is it, as some people have imagined, the projection of our 
aspirations into a fantastic heaven which only reflects back to 
us our own image in larger size. No, it reveals us to ourselves 
and thus discloses to us what we did not know that we are. It 
introduces us into a new dimension of existence. This is out- 
standingly true of our resurrection. This is not some conception 
of survival in which man's aspiration for immortality finds 
expression. It consists neither of what we call life nor of what 
we call death. But it reveals to us what real death is and what 
real life is. For Pascal was right when he said: "Take away 
Christ, and we know neither what death is, nor what life is, 
nor what God is, nor what we ourselves are." 

The resurrection reveals to us first what death is. In ordinary 
language, death is the separation of soul and body. It is the 
end of this present life. In remote times men thought that it 
led one into a kind of diminished life. And terror at the 
prospect of death was terror at the thought of the mysterious 
world lying beyond the grave. Thus we find Antigone saying 


farewell to the light. Men of our time are more inclined to 
see death as an annihilation. More materialistic than their 
ancestors, they can imagine nothing more for than in a situation 
where the senses have no longer anything to seize upon. In 
either case, for both of these, the real life is the present one, 
and the only wish is to prolong it as many years as possible. 

Now, the resurrection reveals to us that we are mistaken. 
The opposition between life and death is not the opposition 
between the present life and life after what we call death. 
All ail o this pertains to one same realm of reality, which 
is death. For death is not the separation of soul and body. 
It Is the separation of man from God. It defines a certain state 
of man which is what St. Paul called "the flesh," which is 
synonymous with death. The flesh does not mean the body; 
it is man whole and entire, soul and body, in the state of 
destitution. And this destitution is the condition of man left 
to himself, deprived of the energies of God. That state is the 
death of the soul, bereft of the powers of grace. And it is the 
death of the body, which is mortality itself. 

So the present life is already a death, inasmuch as it is a 
Hfe pledged to death, as Heidegger so clearly saw. And what 
we call death is nothing but the continuation of this dead life, 
only in a state of more advanced decomposition. Between the 
two, there is no real difference in level. For this reason, all 
human hopes which are centered only on the prolonging of this 
life leave us imprisoned in death. As for the hope that science 
may one day succeed in prolonging Hfe indefinitely, this will 
mean only prolonging a life which is a death. The Fathers of 
the Church grasped this very well; they saw in death an 
invention of God's love to keep death from being immortal. 
And Simone de Beauvoir rediscovered the same intuition, show- 
ing us, in Tous les hommes sant mortels^ the ennui that would 

The Mystery of Life and Death 99 

be bred of the ceaseless repetition of biological existence as 
experienced by a man capable of evading death. 

As for hope of survival beyond the grave, if this survival is 
nothing but the endless prolongation of a dead life, it is the 
very definition of hell. This very conception of the life here- 
after was what rendered the ancients* horror of death so tragic. 
For in their view saner than our contemporaries* the life 
beyond was indeed a life indefinitely continued, but a pale 
replica, among the asphodels of Hades or the shadows of Sheol, 
of what life on earth had been. Whence the melancholy which 
Father Festugiere shows us haunting the whole of the ancient 
world, and its frenzied pleasures, which were but the other face 
of its despair. 

Thus our destitution is greater than we thought. Death keeps 
a prison underground, and already in this life its door clangs 
upon us. Nor can any human force, nor might, nor wit wrench 
its brazen bars nor spring that iron door that keeps us enjailed. 
Mankind is in a state of captivity deeper than any economic or 
social slavery. This tragic reality is one that the false optimisms 
of our day refuse to see. Their lying hopes are the shabbiest of 
the ruses that turn us aside from the way of salvation. How 
much more sincere in this matter are the pessimists who 
acknowledge that man is betrothed to death and that by this 
very fact life is absurd. They are right in recognizing that there 
is no human way out of the tragedy of mortals. They are 
wrong in thinking that there is no way out at all. 

For if the resurrection reveals to us what death is, it also 
reveals to us what life is. Just as death is not the life beyond 
death, so life is not the life this side of death. The latter, this 
present life, is a dead life. Nor is life the powerful current 
of biological life running through the animal species and the 


human species. The life which dissolves man in the life-flow 
of the species is more a tomb than a mother, as Vigny said so 
well. Its course is laden with corpses and bears only on its 
foremost waves a thin fringe of the living. Optimism over 
biological life strikes us as gigantic mummery, as woefully mis- 
taken idealization of the cruel realism of biological existence. 

But the true life is quite different The true life is that of 
man whole and entire when he is lifted out of the corruptibility 
of biological existence and transformed by the divine energies 
which communicate incorruptibility to him. This life is the one 
which St. Paul calls "spirit" in opposition to "flesh/' Man is 
spirit in his soul when this is lifted out of the emptiness of 
merely natural thoughts and feelings and invested with those 
divine habits which are called faith, hope, and charity. Man is 
spirit in his body when the might of the Spirit, seizing his frail 
flesh, lifts it out of its destitution and mysteriously enriches it 
with incorruptibility. 

This life is the one for which man was destined in the 
beginning. For the Bible teaches us that God, after forming 
man from the slime of the earth, led him into Paradise. Now 
this means that, from the beginning, man has been called to 
partake of incorruptible life. Paradise is the place divine, instinct 
with the life-giving energies of the Spirit, to be restored to us 
in the Church. In Paradise grows the Tree of Life, which 
supplies the body with immortality. In God's design there exists 
no human race except the one called to supernatural life. For 
this reason, without this supernatural life man is not fully man. 
There is no humanism but Christian humanism. Man without 
God is maimed in the essential part of himself; he is the 
wretched residue left in the sea marshes when the tide retires, 
he is an empty cartridge case, a cracked and windless bellows. 

The life wfakh is indeed life is our vocation. Aad here is 

The Mystery of Life and Death 101 

where the resurrection reveals to us our grandeur after having 
disclosed to us our wretchedness. Not for death were we 
destined. And yet this life is not something we can come by 
all by ourselves. By nature we are children of wrath. The 
situation of mankind left to itself is a desperate one, with no 
way out. It is bereft of life. It is shut up in death's jail. There 
is in it, but beyond it beyond it, yet short of God, in a world 
misshapen, but definite for all that, where we but creep ahead 
a venemous root, a poisoned spring, a mystery of evil, the 
might of Satan, the prince of death. 

To deliver mankind, no moral preachment, then, nor any 
economic transformation is enough. Evil is something that 
cannot be righted by human means. It is not a problem, it is 
a mystery. A problem is something we can solve, something 
that can be straightened out. Now, the flaw of your modern 
systems, of marxism or of secularism, is the belief that the 
mystery of man can be cleared up by rules or by revolutions. 
And of these two, I must say the marxists seem to me the least 
pharisaical. Yet theirs is not the lesser legerdemain. And they 
are also incurably superficial. Man does not need good advice; 
he needs salvation. 

That was why, in the fulness of time, the eternal Word of 
God, who is substantial life and who has life in himself, came 
down into the world and into the domain of the Prince of this 
world. He descended into the deepest reaches of desolation, 
down into a point which is beyond man's range. He was a 
prisoner of death. And there was a moment when death 
thought, "Now have I won utter victory, for in the grip of my 
power I hold my supreme adversary." That was the bitter hour 
of Good Friday. But descending into the womb o death, the 
Word of Life destroyed the power of death, blasting evil in its 


mysterious root. And the sun of Easter found him stalking 
from hell, having burst the bars of bronze and forced the iron 
gates, freeing forever from death all believers in the resurrec- 

Men can of course free man from certain varieties of slavery 
by their inventions and by their legislative programs. But the 
essential slavery that of death they cannot touch. Only 
Christ can do battle with the Prince of Darkness. The mystery 
of Easter is the mystery of this struggle. Life and death faced 
each other in a mighty duel There took place, beyond man's 
reach, the destruction of what is beyond man's reach and to 
which man is captive; at the same stroke there took place the 
communication to man of what is beyond man and which saves 
man. For man's life lies in seeing God. That is why the 
resurrection which is this victory and this gift is the essential 
event in the history of man. Only the Lamb who was slain can 
break the seven seals of the book wherein lay hid the secret of 
our fate. 

For Christ wrested the victory from death for the whole of 
humankind. In him came life eternal to touch the outstretched 
corpse to restore its life. And from then on there has been in 
our race a life-giving force, a divine sinewing which from the 
risen body of Christ tends to propagate itself in the fulness of 
the whole, like a yeast raising a dough, like a flame setting 
afire the whole bush. "I am come to set fire to the earth, and 
what will I but that it be kindled?" This fire of the Holy Spirit 
has caught at one point of human nature and he wishes it to 
spread to the whole, so that all will be aflame with the con- 
flagration of love. The age of the Church is the time of this 
cosmic conflagration, despite all the obstacles that its enemies by 
their persecutions (and its friends, alas, by their tepidity) place 
before it. 

The Mystery of Life and Death 103 

This fire first reaches souls. It is souls first of all that the 
risen life of Christ engrosses in order to give life to them. The 
resurrection is at work in the midst of us, bearing its wonderful 
fruits. It seeks to lay hold on each one of us to transform him 
into Christ. We must put on Jesus Christ, make his dispositions 
ours, let the Gospel reach every sinew of our soul. The risen 
life is life according to the Gospel, the principle of which is 
the Holy Spirit. "For the love of God has been poured forth 
in our heart by the Holy Spirit, who was given us." The 
resurrection is not simply an event in the past. It constitutes 
our present: "If you are risen with Christ, seek the things that 
are on high/' 

But if this life seems to be still all within, this does not mean 
that it concerns only what is within. It must renew the whole. 
"Behold, I make all things new/' It must have its echo, as well, 
the length and breadth of the cosmos. Nothing will escape its 
reach. Christ is living, soul and body. He will give life to our 
bodies, after having given life to our souls. The Word, having 
created all things, wishes to save all things, as well. But this 
cosmic resonance is still an object of hope. "Your life is hidden 
away with Christ, in God. When Christ, your life, appears, 
then you will appear also in glory/' But this victory of Christ 
over death, as over sin, is not only a future event. In him it is 
already accomplished. Death is already vanquished. We await 
only the full realization of what is already realized in substance. 
The resurrection already casts its light over the whole of our 
existence. We are already caught up in the impetus of the 
resurrection, already transformed by it in baptism, already 
moving towards the resurrection through holiness of life, and 
looking forward to the consummation of the resurrection in 
our own bodies. 

And we draw the waters of this risen life in a permanent 


fashion from its living source, Christ glorified, present per- 
petually among us in the Eucharistic assembly. Through the 
Eucharist, the glorified body of Christ, united to his soul and 
to his divinity, comes in contact with our bodies and with our 
souls so as to communicate this divinity to them. Addressing 
the Christians of Antioch, St. John Chrysostom said that we 
come back from the Eucharistic table "like lions breathing fire/' 
If only we had a deeper realization of the prodigious message 
that is ours to bring to the world, if our lives were only better 
conformed to this message, if only they testified by their 
darling faith, by their incorruptible purity, by their devouring 
love to the divine force which animates them, then surely the 
walls which keep the fire of the Spirit from enkindling the 
world would tumble down. 

Perhaps we understand now why the resurrection is the very 
core of our existence, the core of all existence. It is the sole 
answer to the sole problem. This is not a question of some 
fanciful speculation about the hereafter, but of our whole life, 
the life of present time as well as life eternal. With justice 
St. Paul argued, "If Christ be not risen, vain is our faith." It 
is to this real meaning, the only real meaning, of life that we 
must testify among the men of our time, through our words and 
through our lives. Christ is risen, and we are alive with him- 




DIVISION AMONG Christians is a tragedy. And of this tragedy 
we are acquainted with the essential plot. Christ desired unity 
for his Church. Division is a victory won within the City of 
God by the world. Division has its source in ski, the sin of 
those in the Church and the sin of those separated from the 
Church. It has as its result the enfeebling of the Church in its 
missionary work and in the testimony that it bears. For all these 
reasons, Church unity constitutes a real problem. 

Yet, on the other hand, ecumenicism provides open range 
for confusions and equivocations. We find together under 
that brand questions which are of quite different orders: the 
question of collaboration of all Christians on the social or 
humanitarian level, the question of legitimate differences of 
temperament which have their place in Catholicity, and the 
question of the constitutional elements of unity which are a part 
of the deposit of faith bequeathed us by Christ. Now, any 
dialogue among Christians makes no sense save as conducted 
along clear lines, for union cannot come about save in truth. 

I shall turn therefore at once to what seems to me the one 
and only question presented. It is absolutely not a question of 
an opposition between Protestantism and Catholicism as two 
different views of Christianity. This is a question real enough. 



We shall return it. It is a question of differences. But those 
differences are perfectly compatible with unity of faith. They 
are even the essence of Catholicity. A Catholic will always 
refuse to see in Catholicism one particular conception of 
Christianity. Within these terms, it is not a question of con- 
version of Catholics to the Protestant ''spirit" nor of Protes- 
tants to the Catholic "spirit." Such a question strikes me as 
bereft of meaning. 

The one real question is the question of Jesus Christ. The 
whole debate hinges on determining what total obedience to 
Jesus Christ implies. It is in the measure that the fulness of 
Jesus Christ is recognized that unity is found existing in fact. 
The whole question then is to determine what the fulness of 
Jesus Christ implies, and not to determine whether the biblical 
mentality is preferable to the Scholastic mentality, or whether 
propheticism is more important than authority. People are not 
Protestants because they have a liberal temperament, nor Cath- 
olics because they have a taste for authority. Or anyhow, if 
they are so, they are so for the wrong reasons. 

As soon as one places one's self at this angle of vision, the 
first thing that appears is the impossibility of speaking of a 
dialogue between Catholics and Protestants. For on the ques- 
tion of the fulness of Jesus Christ, the opposition among various 
Protestant groups is far greater than between these groups and 
Catholics. The whole spectrum of positions, then, has to be set 
out. That in fact is what the Oslo Lutheran professor, Einar 
Molland, does in his book Christendom, a panorama of the 
variety of answers given by the various Christian bodies to the 
question of the content of faith in Jesus Christ. He starts with 
Orthodoxy, which seems to him to represent the extreme ten- 
dency most opposed to Protestantism. Then he comes to 
Catholicism. After that, he enumerates the various positions of 

Truth and Unity lOf 1 

Anglicanism, Lutheranism, and Churches in the Calvinist line. 
Last he presents the Baptist Church, the Methodist Church, and 
the most extreme forms of doctrinal liberalism. 

It is likewise from this point of view that we can see how 
the World Council of Churches must lack all representative 
authority in the doctrinal realm. The Council's usefulness is 
very great in that it can co-ordinate the practical activity of the 
various non-Catholic bodies, and in that it does provide a 
meeting point for doctrinal discussions. But it is clear that it 
embraces Christians whose positions are radically opposed on 
the essential questions of faith, like whether the Church is 
institutional or purely confessional, or what the value of the 
sacraments is. But on the doctrinal level each one of the bodies 
which compose it is left free to dispute with the others or with 
the Church of Rome. 

And I shall come back to what I have been saying. The only 
possible method is to pick one particular point and put it to 
the question so as to determine whether it is a part of the fulness 
of Jesus Christ. Then dialogue will make sense, for it will 
consist, not of opposing system to system, but of examining 
fairly what each participant considers himself bound before 
God to acknowledge as being part of Jesus Christ's message. 
The opposition is not basically one of theologies. The point is 
not to determine whether we prefer St. Thomas to Earth. The 
dialogue of theologies is part and parcel of Catholicity. There 
are Catholics of a Barthian temperament and Protestants of a 
Thomistic temperament. If that were the only question, the 
division would not exist. But the question is of an absolute 
Jesus Christ. Nor is it a question of defending our own ideas. 
It is a question of the sacred trust committed by Christ to the 
Church which is his Spouse, The only question is to determine 
what makes up this deposit. 


If we look at things in this way, it is clear at once that from 
this angle the oppositions do not have the massive character 
that they are sometimes given. There are in fact few dogmas 
which Catholics consider as making up the deposit of faith and 
which are not at the same time accepted by some or other 
representatives of the Protestant bodies. This, then, means that 
no dogma represents, in itself, an insurmountable obstacle, 
whether it be the authority of Tradition, the sacrament of holy 
orders, the sacrament of penance, the primacy of the bishop of 
Rome, or the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, for all these 
have been recognized as making up a part of the fulness of 
faith by some or other Protestant bodies. 

In contrast, when Catholics, Protestants, or Orthodox be- 
lievers, instead of centering the question solely on Jesus Christ, 
define their positions in terms of their opposition to one 
another, then true perspectives are dimmed out. Such is the 
case, to cite one typical example, with the recent article in 
Reforme, where Olivier Clement tried to construct an Ortho- 
doxy in opposition to Catholicism and to Protestantism. This 
was an undertaking at second hand, foreign, as well, to the 
genuine Orthodox tradition, and constituting the very model of 
the anti-ecumenical attitude. Among the serious oppositions 
that go back to the fourth century, and which led to the 
Orthodox schism, if there is one thing clear to the eyes of 
history it is that dogmatic questions were quite secondary. The 
great Doctors of the Eastern Church are common Doctors of 
the universal Church. 

Granted all this, it remains none the less true that the various 
Protestant bodies have in common the fact that they do define 
themselves by a common opposition to the Church of Rome. 
This makes us stop to think about what occasions this opposi- 
tion. Now, it seems that it arises from different sources. 

Truth and Unity 109 

Historically, first of all, it is clear that at the moment when 
Luther appeared the Church presented a certain number of 
abuses which were going to have to be reformed. Of course, 
the principle of reform is in itself perfectly legitimate. The 
Church has perpetually need of reform. Just as the prophets 
of the Old Testament, to denounce the abuses introduced 
among the people of God, cited the Covenant, so there is room 
in the Church for a propheticism which appeals constantly to 
the Gospel against the infiltrations of the spirit of the world. 

But, to do the Church any good, reform must possess two 
characteristics. On the one hand, as Father Congar has so well 
shown, it must bear on what is perpetually reformable, but 
leave intact what is irreformable. The tragedy of the Reforma- 
tion is that in undertaking to suppress abuses it damaged the 
very substance of the faith and of the life of the Church. And 
on the other hand it must be carried on within the Church. 
Luther, of course, could legitimately agonize over the fact that 
his appeal for a return to the Gospel was misunderstood by the 
Roman curia. Francis of Assisi and Catherine of Siena agonized 
for the reform of the Church but within the Church. 

Here we touch the essential point. Christianity rests on two 
poles, the Gospel and the Church. The Church must per- 
petually be referred to the Gospel, but the Gospel must be 
perpetually lived in the Church. Fidelity to the Gospel can 
never be infidelity to the Church. The true, the only legitimate 
reform is that which has its source in love of the Church, which 
causes the agony of not seeing the Church so perfect as Christ 
would wish it, but which at no moment can be separated from 
the Church. For this, the unique Church, remains ever the 
Spouse of Christ Jesus, whatever be the sins of the men who 
make it up. We do have the duty of humbling ourselves; we 
have never the right to humble the Church. 

The question of abuses bears principally on the historical 


context of the Reformation. And it shows us that the sources 
of separation have nothing respectable about them, for they 
consist of sin, the sin of the men of the Church, and the sin of 
those who separated themselves from the Church. But a second 
source of opposition to Catholicism on the part of Protestant 
bodies lies rather in the contemporary situation. Because of the 
separation, Catholics and Protestants developed along different 
lines and tended progressively to accentuate the traits that 
distinguished them from each other. Protestants accentuated 
liberty and individualism; Catholics, authority and centraliza- 
tion; Protestants developed the study of the Sacred Scriptures, 
while Catholics placed the emphasis on the infallible magis- 
terium of the Church. But examples are countless. 

Here we find ourselves in the presence of what is doubtless 
today, concretely, the most obvious form of the opposition. One 
can speak today of a Protestant mentality and of a Catholic 
mentality things that did not exist in the sixteenth century. 
This is noticeable in the manner of approaching questions. The 
Protestant appears as if always watchful against whatever 
might seem to take away something from the unique causality 
of Jesus Christ, whether it be a question of the intercession of 
the saints, the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist, the infallibility 
of the Church, or the value of merit. The Catholic, in contrast, 
will emphasize the reality of the gift made by Jesus Christ to 
the Church, to the souls of the holy, and will accentuate the 
fecundity of grace as giving rise to the life of the new man. 

Now, on these points there are three things to be said. First, 
it is in this area that rapprochements seem today to be most 
freighted with hope. We are often reminded (so that I need 
not insist on the point) how receptive Catholics are today to 
the biblical movement, as well as, on the other hand, of 
modem Protestantism's rediscovery of the Church and of the 

Truth and Unity III 

sacraments. Point two, this brings us into an area where there 
is a question less of contradiction than of complementariness. 
Unity dare not be uniformity. But it must be still recognized 
that Protestantism and Catholicism, quite apart from properly 
dogmatic questions, have become opposed mentalities. As 
mentalities, they must acknowledge each other as complemen- 

I shall further explain my thought: A Catholic cannot 
conceive of unity without the acceptance of what seems to him 
essential to the substance of the faith. There is no unity save 
in truth possessed in common. But in my opinion there can be 
no question of making Protestants accept a whole number of 
sociological, cultural aspects, which are historical trappings. 
On that level unity means reciprocal acceptance and reciprocal 
enrichment. And there is where the real problems arise. This 
does not mean that they are the easiest to resolve. For it is on 
this level that instinctive oppositions, hereditary repugnances, 
are to be found. But all of this cannot justify the rupture of 
the Body of Jesus Christ. 

The final trait that the various Protestant bodies have in 
common is their refusal to acknowledge the authority of the 
bishop of Rome. As a matter of fact, this poses two different 
questions that of the dogmatic principle involved, and that of 
the historical trappings of the authority at Rome. The second 
touches on questions we have just hinted at. The organization 
and the methods of the Roman Congregations, the relationship 
between the authority of bishops and that of the Pope these 
are questions susceptible of discussion, and precisely on them 
the forthcoming Council may be called upon to express itself. 
Quite a number of venerable institutions of Christian or 
medieval origin have developed in tune with historical con- 


ditions. All the traditions (with a small letter) do not make up 
part of Tradition (with a capital) . 

A dogmatic principle, however, does exist. For a Catholic, 
this principle is connected with what we were speaking o on 
the first page of this chapter, namely, the deposit of Revelation. 
It is clear that this assertion is a scandal, a stumbling block, as 
indeed is the whole of faith. The reason why Protestants refuse 
to acknowledge the primacy of Peter to the extent they see in 
it pretension on the part of human authority to arrogate to 
itself divine infallibility is absolutely valid. It arises from 
the fundamental vocation of Christianity, which is the denunci- 
ation of all idolatry. It was in the name of this very principle 
that the Jews condemned Christ, by a legitimate sentence, 
inasmuch as they saw in him a man who claimed for himself, 
in blasphemous fashion, an authority equal to God's. The 
unhappy part was that, in this unique case, Jesus had the right 
to claim this authority for himself, because he is God. The 
problem is to determine whether the Church has not the right 
to claim this authority for itself, because it was given it effica- 
ciously and unalienably by God, in such a way that it holds 
nothing from itself, but acknowledges the gift of God that was 
given it. 

Thus finally the question centers on the history of salvation. 
Did sacred history continue after Jesus Christ? Is the age of 
the Church sacred history by the same tide as the time of the 
Old Testament and the time of Jesus Christ ? That is, ultimately, 
are we in a world where there exist operations properly speak- 
ing divine? The Catholic assertion is uniquely that, just as the 
Church really communicates the life of Christ through the 
sacraments, is the instrument, that is, which God uses to com- 
municate a really divine life, just so the Church communicates 
divine truth through its magistermm truth, that is, which is 

Truth and Unity 113 

handled by God himself and of which the Church is only the 
servant. Believing in infallibility is rendering thanks to the 
living God who works in our midst an operation literally divine. 

Now we see the double aspect of the question of unity. 
There is the dogmatic aspect. Unity is the acknowledgment of 
the fulness of Jesus Christ. It can be based only on a common 
credo which contains the totality of what constitutes this ful- 
ness. The Church of Rome can here only profess its faith in 
the fact that certain dogmas are part of this fulness. There is, 
on the other hand, the human aspect. There are human 
obstacles opposed to unity imperialisms and particularisms. 
The immense task of getting rid of these obstacles is open to 
us. Here it will be the part of the wisdom of the forthcoming 
Council to show that the problem of the reform of the Church 
is anterior to the problem of the unity of the Churches, for it 
has as its object to determine what is secondary and reformable 
in the Church. A way has opened up; we know not where it 
will lead. We know only that we must set our foot on it, our 
only map fidelity to the truth, and our only compass nostalgia 
for unity. If all Christians pray and seek, God will bring about 
what could never be brought about by man. 





IT MAY be said that our age reveals two facts essentially 
characteristic of it. On the one hand, it is the age of technology. 
For ethnologists, the tool, along with rite, defines man, and it 
is noteworthy that it is these two traits that allow him to be 
recognized. But it is certain that technology assumes today, in 
contemporary civilization, a very special extension. One may 
say that it brands this civilization, at once by its application in 
more and more extended areas, by the accelerating pace of its 
development, and by its extension to all the human masses: 
wide sections of mankind who had remained strangers to it are 
no more so today, and we have yet to see what the missionary 
consequences of this extension are to be. 

The other fact which characterizes the contemporary world 
is atheistic humanism. This is a specifically modern phenome- 
non, perfectly foreign to ancient civilizations, and up to now 
perfectly foreign as well to peoples who were at some remove 
from Western influence. But today the phenomenon is uni- 
versal; and tomorrow the mission problem in Africa and the 
Far East, as it is today in the West, will be that of a world 
separated from God, and not simply a problem of the old 
religions. Indeed the question arises whether a missionary 



destined to go to China should study Confucius, or Karl Marx. 
It is obvious that even today the works of Marx would be the 
more important for getting to know the mentality he would 
be bound to face. 

Is there some connection between these two facts? That is 
the problem. Is it technological civilization which engenders 
atheistic humanism? That was the thesis of Karl Marx; and it 
is well to recognize that in many regards it presents certain 
probabilities. There is sufficient chronological coincidence of 
the two facts that it may be wondered whether there is not 
something in technological civilization that constitutes an 
obstacle to the religious attitude. It is plain that man in our 
technological civilization does meet a certain number of diffi- 
culties to the religious attitude. Let me make this clear: I 
mean man in our technological civilization and not the scientist. 
The problem is that of the technological civilization which 
totally impregnates our contemporary mentality and not that 
of scientific research as such. 

Must we, as a certain number of men do, conclude that 
technological civilization is something accursed, that as such it 
constitutes a deviation which will turn man aside from his 
supernatural vocation? Or may we, on the contrary, think that 
through the crisis which its development presents today it may 
tomorrow become a girder for a new expansion of Christianity; 
and under what conditions ? Here is a question already serious 
on the theoretical level, but on the practical level actually 
acute, since it affects the presentation of Christ's message in 
a machine-age world. 

What, first of all, are the obstacles which technological 
civilization puts in the way of the religious attitude, of adora- 
tion? Why may a machine-age world be in conflict with the 
religious attitude? For many minds today it is impossible to 

Christianity and Technological Civilization 117 

understand how one may be a man of the twentieth century, of 
the atomic age, and still a religious man. Religion seems a 
survival of a universe quite out of fashion. Why this outlook ? 

One of the traits whereby a machine civilization threatens to 
turn man away from adoration is that // causes man to live in 
a universe made up of his own works. Machine-age man lives 
surrounded by machines, tools, instruments by which he trans- 
forms his life, landscapes even which are the skylines of the 
great modern cities with their immense factories. Thus he finds 
himself surrounded by things which reflect his own image back 
to him from every direction. Father Dubarle remarked some 
time ago that one of the traits which characterizes machine-age 
man is that he no longer has contact with nature in its primitive 
state, and is in touch constantly with natural forces as these are 
recomposed by human ingenuity. As a result, the world of 
technology returns to man his own image; and in this mirror it 
is himself that he contemplates and himself that he admires. 

This point is essential if we are to understand the mentality 
of a great many young people today, all enthusiastic over the 
discoveries and inventions of the age they live in. One has only 
to reflect on the mystique which was created around the inven- 
tion of the Sputnik, and all the hope and at the same time all 
the anguish raised by atomic energy. In this way, the scientist 
seems to many young people today the great hero of the modern 
world, the one who holds in 'his hands all the secrets of power. 

Now there is something serious, for if the heavens proclaim 
the glory of God, machines proclaim the glory of man: Modern 
man, it may be said, is apt to be bewitched by a kind of 
incantation which is that of this whole marvelous world that 
he finds at his finger tips and that is increasing today on an 
almost fabulous scale. All this gives him, in his own eyes, 
a more and more considerable importance and magnitude, and 


relegates, for him, the reality of God's operations to the back- 
ground, so that his practical interest in them is decreased in 
proportion as his attention is centered on the operations of 
man. From this point of view, then, it may be said that the 
world of technology seems to turn man away from God. 

But this is not the only aspect. Besides greatness, the world 
of technology awakens in man a sense of his power. What in 
fact characterizes this world is the progressive mastery which 
man achieves over the forces of nature, permitting him to put 
them to his use. When one compares the situation of primitive 
man, crushed by cosmic forces, with that of man of today, one 
grasps the feeling he has of recovering today all that he 
formerly gave to God simply because he was not the master of 
it, and of extending his conquest (certain aspects of today's 
science give every hope of it) indefinitely towards ever receding 

"A few decades from now," Father Dubarle remarks, "man 
will have covered essentially the whole ground in the matter of 
technical power over inert matter/* Thus, a few decades from 
now we shall be able to say that man has become truly master 
over inert matter, understanding this not only of the terrestrial 
globe, but even, progressively, of the sidereal universes. And, 
Father Dubarle continues, "he will have advanced what he has 
begun in the realm of living matter." This is another direction 
in which progress may go ahead very rapidly, and may lead, 
as we can gather from our reading, to man's becoming master 
of his biological fate as well, to the point where this mysterious 
world of life, which used to be the very thing that escaped man's 
grasp, will be progressively mastered, this mastery permitting, 
as certain materialist philosophers have commenced to say, the 
gradual possibility of an indefinite prolongation of life. Thus 
man, who formerly experienced a feeling of captivity and had 

Christianity and Technological Civilization 119 

recourse to a deus ex machina to come and save him, thinks now 
that he himself is capable of freeing himself from this captivity 
and bringing about his own salvation. 

And he has the feeling that recourse to something outside 
his world is in fact a kind of laziness; that the need is to devote 
all man's energies in his struggle for his own liberation; that it 
is man who will be the demiurge of man and will create the 
happy and liberated mankind of tomorrow. This is the myth 
which is at the bottom of marxism, which, however, only ex- 
presses systematically what exists in a more or less latent form 
in a good many minds. 

Finally, there is a third aspect under which we may consider 
the world of technological civilization as creating an obstacle 
to religious life: It accustoms the mind to approaches very 
different from those by which the religious world may be 
attained ; it counts as important values those of efficiency rather 
than of truth. In the realm of scientific invention one cannot 
properly speak of truth; there are never anything but hypo- 
theses, which can be superseded by other hypotheses and which 
are verified by their concrete effectiveness. Now, this criterion 
tends to become the measure of all things; and spiritual realities 
are denounced as lacking in pragmatic effectiveness in respect 
of the concrete transformation of human life. This is one of the 
objectives which we find to be most current: Christianity is of 
no use to us for the task that lies before us, namely, the 
transformation of man's material conditions. 

Furthermore, the scientific approach associates criteria of 
certitude with possibilities of concrete experimentation some- 
thing impossible in the religious realm; and the upshot is that 
religious assertions are felt to have a gratuitous character, and 
to lack the same quality of certitude as possessed by what is 
susceptible to experimentation. The result is that for many 


scientists, even those who are Christians, religion is essentially 
a subjective affair, which arises from feeling and cannot be 
objectively and rationally based. Oh, religious sentiment will 
be respected life is sad enough, we are told, and it will not 
do to deprive men of the consolations of religion; but it will 
be thought that a clear-thinking mind should be capable of 
dispensing with this recourse and of facing up to truth in all its 
unremitting coldness. 

Note moreover that the scientific approach is essentially that 
of invention. It consists in going always ahead, in progressing; 
the world of science is a world of perpetual discovery. In such 
a climate, announcement by religion of a word which has been 
spoken once and for all, assertion of a truth with an absolutely 
permanent character this will easily appear as contrary to the 
life of the mind. Now what we remark here no less than 
what we have remarked above would not be verified in the 
case of superior minds, of men who know the limits of science; 
but it is in fact on the level of the student in technological 
courses, of the specialized technician, that I am placing myself, 
for it is there that we find the mentality which in effect screens 
out religion, closes the blinds on adoration. 

But there is another side to the story the fact that tech- 
nological civilization, precisely through its development, is 
touching certain limits, and that this fact is beginning to be felt 
by a certain number of our contemporaries. We are not re- 
ferring to some breakdown in the technological world, but to 
its limits and to its insufficiency. We were saying a few pages 
back that what characterizes the technological world is that man 
discovers himself in it. But the long and short of it is that he 
discovers himself so much that he ends up with a kind of 
feeling of captivity. The world of technology shuts man up 
inside man and man's powers. As a result, he is beginning to 

Christianity and Technological Civilization 121 

experience that stifled feeling which brought Claudel's St. 
Therese to cry out, "A window, a window, a window to escape 
from everlasting vanity/* For if the world of technology 
stretches and stretches and stretches man's prison out indefi- 
nitely, still it doesn't get him out of it; it extends things 
indefinitely in their own order, but it does not bring anybody 
into a different order. 

This is already true in the area of knowledge. Let us take 
for example the sciences of man. It may be said that at present 
here is where the greatest strides are being made in the world 
of technology. But we may be sure that when everything about 
man has been explained, and all the wheels and springs ex- 
hibited, there remains "the I know not what and the almost 
nothing/' which is to say that finally, when everything has been 
explained, there will be left over precisely the essential, what 
man is at the very core and which remains inaccessible to 
science; then the only possible step is to another order of means 
of investigation. 

What is true of the realm of knowledge is true also of the 
realm of existence, which is to say that there are captivities for 
which technology can free man. It has considerably diminished 
the burden of human existence, and, in this sense, it has been 
a great undertaking. I am thinking of all that medicine, that 
surgery have done to alleviate human sufferings; for this one 
must express immense gratitude. But, here again, there are 
limits. There is also about technology something irremediably 
superficial, something that stays on a certain level and can 
never rise above that level. There is an essential wretchedness 
from which no science will ever free man the wretchedness of 
death and of sin. Christ alone plumbed this spiritual wretched- 
ness which he descended into hell, and there reached and 
destroyed the root of evil. 


To illustrate this by an example, I shall cite the most 
characteristic, the limit problem which we all come up against, 
namely, that of death. Technical science envisages this problem. 
Its program would be incomplete if it ignored it. It may, then, 
undertake to prolong life and to push death further and further 
back. At the very best, it could do so indefinitely. But the 
existence it would thus prolong indefinitely would always 
remain none the less an existence mortal and corruptible, where 
man would trudge around endlessly in the cycle of biological 
existence. In contrast, the life which Christ brings us is a 
passage to another order of existence, that of incorruptible 
life, transformed by the energies of the Spirit and freed from 
biological servitude. 

I turn now to man's anguish over his own powers. I am think- 
ing here of the physicists when they became conscious that they 
had incarnated a deadly power with possibly tragic conse- 
quences. The man of technical science is afraid. He is afraid be- 
cause today he has in his hands powers incomparably beyond 
any possessed by man in the past and which make it perfectly 
possible for him to be the instrument of cosmic catastrophe. 

For scientific progress does not suffice to halt man's tragedy; 
something more is required than the invention of instruments; 
what is required is determining what to do with them. Thus 
today there has become salient the problem of the moral re- 
sponsibility of the scientist. But the problem itself is not of 
today's birth. Leonardo da Vinci, who was an engineer, refused 
to publish the designs of the submarine he had invented, because 
he thought it essentially unfair to attack, without warning, an 
enemy who cannot see you! This presupposes that technical 
means are remandable to another order of values which can be 
nothing but a certain absolute of good and evil, a moral, humane 
order, only in tejtms of which can technology have any final 

Christianity and Technological Civilization 123 

Finally, an exclusively technological way of looking at the 
world itself deprives it of its moral dimension. For the cosmos 
is not simply an ensemble of forces which we can undertake to 
put to our uses. It is also a world which reveals to us something 
that is beyond itself. A universe of pure technology would be 
like a temple converted to secular purposes, a fane wherein 
something would be plainly missing. Now the sacred, the 
religious dimension of the world is a thing for which modern 
man has again commenced to have a kind of vital thirst. And, 
when it comes down to it, adoration is a need as irrepressibly 
human as technology; as pointed out earlier, rite is the sign of 
man no less that the tool. A man who does not adore at all is 
not a man. 

What, then, are the avenues by which the modern world of 
technology presents possibilities of consecration? I shall say 
at once what technology seems to me to bring to religion, and 
that is a certain purification. To the extent that it recoups for 
man's account certain things that had been considered super- 
natural, it frees religion and the supernatural from a whole 
cumbersome burden of the pseudo-supernatural and the pseudo- 
religious. Primitive man identified the supernatural everywhere, 
but largely on account of his ignorance. Purification of genuine 
religion from such degradations results from man's investiga- 
tion of the whole range of his powers. There is, therefore, in 
this sense, a wholly positive contribution from the technological 
world to the religious world. 

In the second place, we were saying that technology gives 
man a sense of his own power, and that as a result man has been 
brought to hymn the glory of man and not the glory of God. 
But, after all, does the glory of man not redound ultimately to 
the glory of God? We need have no fear that man will be too 
great. Peguy remarked that there is no call to downgrade 
Severe in order to exalt Polyeucte. Some people think man must 


be abased if God is to be magnified. I should say that, on the 
contrary, the greater man seems to us the more God will seem 
all the greater still ; and, in this sense, we have nothing to fear 
over what is lodged to man's credit. 

It is for this reason that we do not balk at giving a woman 
the Virgin Mary that extraordinarily high standing that some 
people reproach us for giving her on the grounds that by 
attributing too great greatness to the Blessed Virgin we seem 
to be taking something away from Jesus Christ. This appeals to 
us as utterly groundless, because what we attribute to the Virgin 
she has only received from Jesus Christ; and the greater the 
greatness Christ has granted to the Virgin Mary, the greater 
still does he appear to us. The greater man appears, the more 
we understand how surpassingly so must be he from whom man 
holds this greatness; and through the looking glass of modern 
man there is a new image of God which we are enabled to 

This very world that technology has developed may itself 
be sacralized; there is absolutely no reason why it cannot be 
capped with a temple in which God will have his dwelling, and 
the whole consecrated to him. Already through the resources of 
modern architecture, and through the new materials it has at 
its disposal, we see the development of a religious architecture 
which is like the expression of the modern soul and strikes us as 
one of the first beginnings of what may be a consecrated world 
of technology. Again, it may be said that the way man has been 
learning today about the dimensions of space and time, and 
learning to handle them, has given us a realkation that both 
space and time are far more vast than we ever imagined them. 
I can think of nothing that gives me a mightier image of God, 
as he is manifested by means of the world, than those vast 
stellar spaces which the astronomy and physics of today allow 

Christianity and Technological Civilization 125 

us to glimpse; and we feel that our expanding world will 
furnish still finer images through which God will be expressed. 

As has often happened in other periods of history, new forces 
have appeared, and, on first appearance, have seemed obstacles, 
but because they are new forces, and have the greenness and 
rawness of new growth. Once upon a time, a city seemed itself 
a thing accursed, and the Israelite nomads thought no salvation 
possible but in the open life of the desert. And yet we see a 
moment when history had a turning, when David built the holy 
city, Jerusalem, and brought God into it before bringing man 
there. We, too, are at one of the turning points of history, at 
one of those moments marked by the presence of new forces 
which up till now have been in play outside the ambit of the 
Gospel, but about which there is no indication that they cannot 
be marked with the sign of the cross. We must imagine how the 
world of technology will cease being an obstacle to adoration 
and become, instead, something positively conducive to 

We have to rediscover the sacred, as an essential component 
of the human soul, in the dimensions which the cosmos has 
assumed today. That is why one of our main problems will be 
to discover a new symbolism, as it were. For we shall have to 
find a new way of discerning in this brave new universe we 
are even now exploring the new religious dimensions that fit 
it. There was a cosmology of the middle ages; there was a 
cosmology of the age of Galileo ; we are entering today upon a 
third cosmology, and the instant problem is new representa- 
tions, new paradigms, so that the essential data of religion will 
not be frozen in superseded representations; we shall have to be 
forever reinventing, it might be said, for the permanent message 
of religion, forms of expression corresponding to man's explora- 
tion of the universe. 


This, in fact, is already on the way to accomplishment. The 
present-day religious resurgence is not taking place in the 
world of philosophers and literary men, who today are in great 
part prisoners of the decadent intellectuality which I decried 
earlier in this volume; religious resurgence today is to be found 
essentially in scientific circles; here there are appearing, these 
days, fine, enthusiastic young people, right in touch with what 
is most uplifting in the contemporary world, namely, the 
marvelous accomplishments of today's science; and they are 
experiencing the need to enrich technological expansion with a 
humanism that will give it meaning and direction. As we 
remarked early, science today is rediscovering man; it is redis- 
covering responsibility, it is discovering, by the means proper 
to it, the necessity of placing these means in the service of 
man ; it is looking for a vision which will enable this magnificent 
scope of science to appear as centered upon a flowering of 
mankind and ultimately on some final sense of history such as 
will bring it to rediscover an absolute. Here mention must be 
made of the great importance in contemporary France of the 
work of Teilhard de Chardin. Teilhard's theses may be dis- 
puted; we are not looking to him for a new theology; but the 
fact remains that his work is among those which today trace the 
most promising lines of development of the rediscovery of 
religion springing up in the very heart of the technological 

It is noteworthy that the president of the Senegalese govern- 
ment, Leopold Senghor, in the constitution of Senegal was 
inspired essentially by the philosophy of Teilhard de Chardin. 
It may be said that these are the only ideas that the African 
nations today have to oppose to marxism as inspiration for the 
building of a civilization. What I think we are seeing there is 
really an outgrowing of marxism; marxism, of course, has not 

Christianity and Technological Civilization 127 

been left completely behind; but passed over it certainly has 
been. In another direction, we must be struck by the fact that 
at the present time the French Communists are trying to annex 
Teilhard, because they sense quite accurately that this is in fact 
the form of thought most harmful to them, since it retains all 
that is valid in enthusiastic approval of scientific expansion, but 
in a spiritualistic and religious sense which renders it still more 
rich instead of impoverishing it as marxism does by reducing it 
to a positivism philosophically out of date. 

From this point of view, similarly, we are witnessing a 
rehabilitation of intelligence. I said on an early page here that 
intelligence is sick; the intelligence of the intellectuals I was 
speaking of in that connection is sick; theirs is an intelligence 
believing itself incapable of any use, incapable of attaining 
truth. But now scientific thought, for its part, believes in the 
intelligence and is at the same time experiencing today the 
limits of scientific understanding; along the very pattern of 
Aristotle of old, it is through physics that we are on the verge 
of rediscovering metaphysics. It is, then, in the course of the 
development of scientific thought that we are on the brink of 
once more emerging into a philosophy which merits the name, 
one, that is, which is not a cultivation of subjectivity, not an 
exercise of intelligence with no objective outside itself, but a 
search for the truth in the fulness of its expression. And it is 
also there that we shall perhaps rediscover happiness. 

In the broader view of our civilization, one of the features 
of the revival of religion is the religious feeling that is stirring 
today at the core of human concerns; we had been making 
religion too much something isolated; I have a horror of the 
conception of religion as a private affair. Totalitarian states 
understand this quite well; they always make sure right away, 
as a first step, to restrict the domain of religion to the mere 


conducting of religious services, and to separate from it all the 
domains of intellectual life, of social life, of political life; now 
this move in effect ultimately destroys religion by uprooting it 
from the soil of human affairs. But today it is the opposite that 
is happening; religion is stirring again at the very base of human 
activities; it is springing up again in scientific thought, inasmuch 
as the latter, in the course of its inventory of the cosmos, is 
feeling the need to go beyond itself; it is springing up again 
within the state, inasmuch as adoration, or the presence of God, 
appears today to be as substantially necessary to the common 
weal as are economic life and scientific progress. 

This fact is the one that the man of today is experiencing 
more and more; there is a certain false secularism, a complete 
split of human activities off to one side, and God off to the 
other side, a process that manages to kill both religion and man 
with one stroke. In contrast, this rediscovery of the funda- 
mental place of the religious at the very heart of human 
activities is one of the rediscoveries which will build the world 
of tomorrow. Adoration is as necessary to a state as labor is, 
as the national economy is; monasteries of contemplative men 
and women are as necessary to the state as are factories; man, 
human society, can no more dispense with the bread of God 
than with the bread of man. And I think that it is in this vital 
perspective that there will appear and perhaps exactly where 
we should not expect it, precisely, that is, in a world which has 
too long been deprived of God new wellsprings of religion. 





IT is something very disappointing to find so often, in big 
national or international meetings of some kind, eminent men 
giving evidence of a remarkable intelligence when talking about 
their specialty economics, jurisprudence, science, whatever it 
may be and then being satisfied with the vaguest common- 
places as soon as they touch upon what are usually spoken of as 
"spiritual values." One gets the feeling that for them, if science 
is the realm of precision, spiritual values make up the realm of 
imprecision. This metaphysical asthenia, this confusion of 
mind when the essential is touched on, constitutes without 
doubt one of the main weaknesses of the Western world. Now, 
spiritual values are susceptible of quite as rigorous precision as 
scientific data. 

Precision, then, must be brought to these values. Eighteenth- 
century thought, in its confidence in the perfectibility of human 
nature, made liberty the principle of political and economic 
life. This was developed in a twofold direction. On the one 
hand, on the economic level, individual liberty in production 
and exchange was presented as the mainspring of the growth of 
prosperity. On the other hand, on the political level, the 
popular will, as expressed through universal suffrage, was con- 
sidered the source of law: This was the doctrine of Le conttat 
social. Now, under both aspects, this philosophy of liberty 


resulted in failures which made plain the need for some 

Under the first aspect, the danger appeared in the form of the 
advantage gained by one of the components of economic life 
at the expense of the others. It is perfectly true that a certain 
economic liberty is among the just demands of a free world. 
Without a minimum of this liberty, spiritual liberties cease to 
be guaranteed. But economic society involves another pole, 
which is the common good. If it is the state's duty to insure 
the free exercise of every liberty, and hence of economic liberty, 
it must also take care that this liberty is not exercised to the 
exclusive profit of a few and at the expense of the whole. In 
reality, pure economic liberalism is an ideology which sets up 
one aspect of the economy as an absolute. 

These reflections invite us to go a bit deeper. What we are 
defending when we defend man's freedom is not a liberal 
ideology as against a socialist ideology; it is a challenge to all 
political ideologies insofar as they set up certain elements of 
temporal society as absolute. We think, in fact, with Raymond 
Aron, that these ideologies are the source of present-day 
humanity's worst evils. They constitute the secular religions of 
a world which, having ceased to look for the absolute where 
it is, which is to say over and beyond politico-economic society, 
projects it onto this society, where it does not belong. One of 
our essential tasks is, in the words of Jeanne Hersch, "to rinse 
political economy of every adulteration of the absolute." 5 

It must be clear that the first thing we must avoid is falling 
into the error of erecting false absolutes in our adherence to a 
liberal ideology. This does not mean, at all, that we are not 
obliged to defend economic liberty. Indeed, one of the faults 

5 Jeanne Hersch, Ideologies et realite, p. 23- 

Truth and Society 131 

we find with communist society is failure to value this liberty. 
But we defend it, not as a new Gospel, from which we are to 
expect salvation, but as just one component of economic society, 
with the common good as its counterpart. Then we are in the 
field of realities, not the field of ideologies. Nor does this 
mean that we reject absolute values; it means that we refuse 
to do what we blame communism for doing finding them 
where they do not exist. 

The problem posed by liberty as the foundation of law is 
different, but it likewise calls for some distinctions. Here again, 
it is plain that, more than any other, the democratic conception 
of the state calls for the exercise of liberty. This does not mean 
that that conception is incompatible with other kinds of govern- 
ment, wherein the executive power may be more or less strong. 
But that is not the question we are considering here. If the 
democratic ideal is in fact valid, it is often accompanied by 
a philosophy which tends in practice to destroy it. This political 
philosophy is the one which makes the popular will the very 
source of right, of law, and not simply the designation of its 

This juridical voluntarism is in fact doubtless at the bottom 
of the principal errors against which we must take a stand. The 
moment the popular will appears as the supreme and infallible 
arbiter, nothing is to prevent its making what is right coincide 
with its own will to exist. And that is in fact what happens. 
Nationalism under its modern form is the first expression of 
this error. But Brugmans has denounced this nationalism as 
one of the greatest obstacles to the ideal of the European com- 
munity. 6 We are not speaking here of patriotism as a basic 
feeling, nor of the right of nationalities as a people's legitimate 
aspiration for independence, nor yet of the sovereignty of the 

e L. F. Brugmans, Les Origines de la civilisation europ&enne, pp. 51-54. 


state, but of the ideology which makes the national will an 
absolute. John Nef, in his book on war and human progress, 
showed how the attribution of this sovereign character to the 
nation sponsored the modern type of ideological wars. 

It is the same principle which, taken up by marxism, makes 
the will of the proletariat an absolute. The popular will then 
becomes the instrument of the worst sorts of oppression. It 
issues within in totalitarianism and the strangulation of lib- 
erties, and without in ideological war. It is thus found to 
destroy democracy. And that is why we are led to dissociate 
democracy as a political reality from a philosophy of political 
liberty ordinarily associated with it, and to look instead for its 
true foundations. For my part I am not in agreement with 
Hans Kohn when he writes that "modern Western civilization, 
through its emancipatory mobilization, is becoming the greatest 
revolutionary force in human conditions, in fact, the permanent 
revolution." 7 It has perhaps been that. But then it unleashed 
in the world the very forces which menace it itself today. And 
this must place on it the duty of inquiring whether it ought 
not to verify its foundations. 

If the national will, or the will of a class, does not create 
right, and cannot determine good and evil by decree, this 
is because there exists a higher court, to which one can appeal 
against it. One of the essential principles of a just society 
appears here: it is anti-totalitarian, which is to say that it 
refuses to make the state the supreme tribunal. Yet this has no 
sense save as one can appeal against the state to a higher seat 
of justice. This appeal is to the existence of an order which 
may be called human nature, the right of the human person, 
which has a permanent, universal character the existence of 
a system of values which is not at the mercy of the whim of 

T Hans Kohn, Commnnanie Atlantiqtte f Carters de Brstges, 1937, p. 17. 

Truth and Society 133 

individuals, or of communities either, but is, instead, imposed 
on all as an absolute. 

This point is one of those on which it seems that a consensus 
might best be established. In the final report of the commission 
on religion and spiritual values of the Congress of Bruges, 
the first proposition is "the respect for the intrinsic worth of 
the human person, a value which transcends every absolute and 
idolatrous conception of the state/' 8 The very notion of person 
implies an end value, and imposes an unconditional respect. 
But there is more to it than that. It implies a destiny which 
transcends political or economic society, making man something 
more than a cell of the social organism, and implying, in the 
words of John of the Cross, that "one of man's thoughts is 
worth more than all the universe." This does not mean that the 
human person does not have to submit to the legitimate require- 
ments of society; but it implies that society, in turn, exists only 
to aid man to attain his end an end that lies beyond society. 

We must note that this assertion of the worth of the human 
person implies, if it is not to be hypocrisy, a duty towards every 
human being. Not only does it constitute a condemnation of 
every racism and every nationalism, but it implies a positive 
obligation to help all men to reach a truly human condition. 
Let me turn again to the Bruges resolutions: "Liberty is 
inseparable from human solidarity and from the duty to give 
all men access progressively to material and spiritual goods." 
That to which everything must be referred is the community of 
persons. This likewise implies world-wide application of these 
principles. In this sense, the problem of the undeveloped 
countries is an ethical problem of the first importance. 

This brings us to the answer we were aiming for earlier when 
we asserted that liberty is the principal reference of civilization. 

8 Ibid., p. 120. 


We acknowledged this liberty first on the level of political and 
economic life. But we noted that its roots must be sought else- 
where, for if it be considered only on this level, it is in danger 
of destroying itself. And indeed the import of liberty which we 
arrive at is that of the human person precisely as transcending 
the political or economic community. That is spiritual liberty, 
of which a Berdyaiev has magnificently exalted the sovereign 
independence from all temporal ends, because its destiny is 

We shall note that this implies all-important consequences 
for the political and economic realm as such. We have often 
remarked that the error of contemporary ideologies has been to 
exaggerate the importance of political affairs by transforming 
them into a secular religion whence come intolerances, tyran- 
nies, wars. Political affairs must be put back in their place. 
The political is essentially the realm of the contingent, inasmuch 
as its object is to balance complementary elements. It is the 
realm of compromise (not necessarily of principles, but of 
measures) . Jeanne Hersch has clearly shown that the political 
as such does not create values, but "a void where something is 
possible." 9 From this no man's land one may never expect a 
great deal of good; but it can prevent a great deal of harm. 

This is why political and economic activity is essential, but 
inasmuch as it renders something else possible, and not because 
it itself is something final. One of the worst forms of deviation 
communism has given the modern world is the turning of all 
problems into political ones. Philosophical, religious, and 
artistic values are no longer considered save in their political 
implications. Thus, by a tragic subversion, it is the political 
line which becomes the absolute reference, and all the rest 
becomes relative. It is the contrary operation which we must 

* Jeanoe Hersch, op. cit.^ p. 97. 

Truth and Society 135 

accomplish. We must restore the primacy to the values of truth, 
of beauty, of spirituality, and to the whole vast domain of the 
private life of man, and domain of work, of love, and of 
religion. The very purpose of the political is to render this 
possible. To borrow the metaphor of a Christian writer of old, 
Hernias, political economy is the arbor, itself sterile, but to 
which clings the vine, which does bear fruit. 

We may also observe that if politics is not the source of 
moral and spiritual values, neither is morality sufficient to 
make good politics. Of course, here again, it is clear that 
political activity must be inspired by purposes proper to man, 
and that in this sense it must submit to morality. But otherwise 
it moves in the domain of the relationship of forces which 
constitute the law of human societies. As Jeanne Hersch 
remarks, politics cannot be pure Macchiavelli, but neither can 
they be pure Kant. It is society's duty, in the name indeed of 
the spiritual values it must safeguard, to be able to defend them 
on the plane of political realism. There can exist a pseudo- 
evangelical pacifism which would mean the betrayal of spiritual 

Thus, human history can be expressed neither in terms of a 
pure battle of wild beasts nor in terms of a reign of morality. 
It is an effort to make moral values triumph, but in a world 
which is also one of a combination of forces. In political 
economy, power is an essential element as well as law, as Ernest 
Lefever has ably shown. And this is bound up with the very 
essence of temporal society, with the contingent nature of 
political elements, which are never wholly permeable to 
morality. Economic, demographic, and political entities con- 
stitute the context within which conditions of balance must be 
sought out. Conscientious objectors, who represent the extreme 
degree of political idealism, often seek an argument in the early 


Christians* refusal of military service. But Hans von Campen- 
hausen has shown that this did not prevent early Christians 
from praying for the armies which guarded the frontiers of 
the Empire. 10 And when the Empire became Christian, 
Christians found that they had to assume responsibility for the 
state, and from that moment on normally assumed military 

This shows us again the limited character of political 
society, and the danger of projecting messianic aspirations on 
it, of expecting more from it than it can give. Precisely there 
lies the error of all the secular religions, be they liberal or 
totalitarian. By turning minds from real political tasks, they 
falsify political realities. One of our essential tasks is to de- 
nounce myths, whether the creation of naive optimism or 
instruments of clever propaganda, whether illusions or lies. 
For the one is as dangerous as the other. One of the features of 
genuine political economy is what I shall call by a name pretty 
well forgotten today the spirit of measure, of moderation, of 

To win an ear for moderation is doubtless one of the diffi- 
culties. For it is easier to arouse enthusiasm with myths than 
to set realistic, hence necessarily limited, goals for political 
programs. Is what Admiral Redford in November of 1955 
called "the free world ideology" what we have to oppose to 
Communist ideology? Must we enter upon psychological war- 
fare? Is our goal what the New York Herald Tribune called 
a "Marshall Plan of ideas" ? Are we here the children of light, 
representatives of the good, as against the children of darkness, 
representatives of evil ? 

Who does not see that to accept such a point of view would 

VOQ Campedbauseo, "Der Kriegdienst <kr Christen," festschrift inr 
Karl Jaspers, pp. 255-264. 

Truth and Society 137 

be to fall into the very error which we must denounce? To do 
so would be to make a secular religion of democracy, to give a 
religious character to political values, to accept the attitude 
which the communist world seeks to bring us around to. Ours 
is the opposite task of ridding the political of its pseudo- 
religious content. And in this we are faithful to our ideal, 
which is to proclaim that the true destiny of the person is 
realized beyond any earthly state, in what Christians call the 
Kingdom of God and which is, at least for all free men, the 
kingdom of the spirit, the society of persons. In a remarkable 
chapter of his book Ethics and United States Foreign Policy the 
American theologian Ernest Lefever studies this question of 
the war of words and of ideas. 11 He shows in how far such 
warfare is legitimate. And it is true that we must have con- 
fidence that we are fighting for the defense of values which 
merit defense. But he also emphasizes the danger of a buildup 
of political ideology easily turning into a propaganda which 
empties words of their meaning, peace and liberty becoming 
empty words that no longer fool anybody, and which finally 
ends up in justifying anything and everything. 

For our part, we refuse to oppose one myth to another. We 
refuse to promise a paradise on earth. Though this may place 
us in a minority, we believe that, in the end, truth will have the 
last word. It is because we believe in human values, and wish 
to defend them, and because words do have a meaning for us 
that we refuse to put these values at the service of political 
propaganda. Yet it is plainly true, on the other hand, that 
political activity should serve these values. A civilization 
becomes enfeebled when it no longer lives the values which are 
its reason for being. The enemy that lies in wait for it is then 
within rather than without. And doubtless our quest is for 

"Pp. 134-161. 


realization of what we ought really to defend, for this con- 
stitutes for us values apart from which life is not worth living. 

Thus the proclamation of the transcendence of the human 
person over political and economic society seems to us the 
essential element of civilization. But this remains negative. 
This order which is not the political order, to which the 
spiritual person belongs, which he considers the highest court 
of appeal, and in the name of which he claims the right to 
judge political institutions, can be more completely identified. 
It implies a derivation from an absolute among values, for, as 
we have already stated, human liberty is not the source of right, 
but is derived from a good and a true which exist outside it 
and to which it is referred. Concretely this order of values 
corresponds to the Judaeo-Christian revelation. 

If we reconsider the principal themes which we have selected 
for treatment so far, it is in fact in the Judaeo-Christian 
perspective that they assume their meaning. As we said, right 
is not the arbitrary creation of the collective will, but corre- 
sponds to a law which is imposed on man and which he is not 
free to alter according to his wishes. Now, this implies for 
liberty the recognition of a value by which it recognizes that it 
can be limited without being abolished. This limit, which 
compels recognition as meriting absolute respect, and which 
does not have its source in man's will, can be only a higher 
will, exacting acknowledgment as worthy of absolute reverence 
and adoration. The moral absolute implies an element of the 
sacred. This the believer acknowledges in the living God. But 
the agnostic, the moment he recognizes this sacred character 
of the moral law, acknowledges this absolute, nameless though 
it is to him. 

Similarly, respect for the human person appears as having 
its ultimate basis in the fact that he is called to a destiny which 

Truth and Society 139 

transcends terrestrial existence. Only thus does his transcend- 
ence of political society assume its full meaning. The com- 
munity of persons is no mere abstract society, but the concrete 
reality of that future city with which the present world is in 
labor. The revelation of the infinite value of the human person 
has its source in, and preserves its full meaning only in the 
revelation, given us in the Gospel, of God's love for every man. 
To this point Greek thought did not arrive. That is why it is 
legitimate to say with the English historian Douglas Jerrold 
(whom I find cited in Allen Tate's volume on culture and reve- 
lation) , that Christian civilization is not one civilization among 
others, but the only one built on the rights of the human person, 
rights deriving from faith in the immortality of man's soul. 

CHAPTER xi Truth 




THE QUESTION of the balance a Christian ought to strike 
between his Christian vocation on the one hand and his duties 
in the world on the other has been a particularly vexing one for 
a good score of years now. It presents itself on more than 
one level, and first of all on the practical level. Christians 
formerly, Christians in the nineteenth century, were reproached 
for not grasping the importance of terrestrial values and for 
considering the Christian vocation too exclusively as an eternal 
one, with the result that they were not interested in human 
problems, in the development of society, and in the need for 
co-operating in its progress. To this disincarnate Christianity 
has been opposed what is styled incarnational Christianity, 
with the idea that what is called greater engagement is to be 
henceforth the rule (these words, leitmotifs of thinking on the 
subject, have tended to become slogans these past few years) . 

Still, difficulties have arisen here, too. In this engagement in 
terrestrial duties, would not the Christian, at the opposite ex- 
treme, run the danger of reducing his Christianity to the 
building up of what is no lasting city, and of turning these 
terrestrial values into an absolute? Would this incarnational 
Christianity not then become a pure humanism, delicately 



united with Christianity? I recall a discussion I had once upon 
a time with Merleau-Ponty, on the subject of an article in which 
he had explained that Christianity was fortunately in the 
process of undergoing an evolution, of changing, he said, from 
a Christianity of transcendence to an incarnational Christianity, 
consisting in God's becoming more and more man; but this, in 
his scheme of thought, meant that it was thenceforth man who 
was becoming God, which is not quite exactly the Christian 
theology of the Incarnation. And one can see, in fact, where 
this evolution sometimes succeeded in leading: to the leaving 
aside of the divine element in Christianity, seeing in it only its 
human element, and making Christianity into a certain form of 

Are we forced to choose between transcendence and incar- 
nation? Between God and man? Or must we speak, as some 
people do, of a divided loyalty, wherein our life is torn between 
God, tugging at the one side, and man, tugging at the other? 
Between the attraction of contemplation, which solicits us to 
leave aside all human things so as to be free for the things of 
God, and, in the opposite direction, a social duty demanding 
our exclusive attention to terrestrial concerns? Were that the 
case, Christian life would be a kind of paradox. It would be 
unavoidably unhappy. We should all have to live in a con- 
tinuous bad conscience. When turning to God, we should have 
to be reproaching ourselves for leaving the needs of our neigh- 
bor; and when attending to our neighbor, we should have to be 
blaming ourselves for not giving our attention to God. 

Let us remark first of all that the idea that there are in our 
lives as it were two opposed poles, a human pole and a divine 
pole, is one that does not correspond, at all, to the actual 
biblical conception of man. On the contrary, the Bible reveals 

Truth and the Individual 143 

in man a magnificent unity. If an opposition exists, it does not 
exist on the plane of the objective reality of things, but on the 
plane of the deformation which we bring to it. We are torn, 
not between man and God, but between the glorification of 
God on the one side and idolatry of man on the other. It is 
clear that there cannot be two absolutes. Were there such, you 
would have inevitably either the impossibility of achieving unity 
or the necessity of choosing between the two. But in reality, 
in the truly Christian conception of man, this is not the case 
by any means. 

We can attempt to appreciate this by inspiring ourselves 
particularly with those first chapters of the Bible which are 
like the charter of biblical anthropology. There we see in man 
three dimensions. The first is mastery of the world. When the 
first Adam was created, God brought the animals before him 
in order that he might name them and thus manifest his domi- 
nation over the animal world. The Bible tells us also that he 
was placed in the Garden to cultivate it, and that everything 
was placed at his service. A first aspect of biblical man is 
therefore his terrestrial duty, that of acquiring mastery over 
the world in order to bring it into his service. Contrary to a 
prejudice which we meet around us, and that must be de- 
molished forthwith, nothing is more conformable with the 
biblical vocation of man than the inventory of all the riches of 
the earth and the discovery of all its resources, for the purpose 
of making them serve personal development. 

From this point of view, nothing seems more profoundly 
biblical nor more legitimate from the simple point of view of 
the faith than the prodigious progress man is making today in 
this investigation of the universe. It would be absurd for a 
Christian to be upset over this progress of science, to pout 
about it, and to fancy in it heaven knows what obscure menace 


to salvation. It would be an infantile Christianity indeed to 
fear that the faith might stand or fall with some new discovery; 
were our faith really in that case, a pretty flimsy thing it would 
be. Quite to the contrary, man's effort to discover the riches of 
this marvelous universe and to glorify God in his wonderful 
works is perfectly in line with our vocation. Let it be a Russian 
who first sets foot on the moon. His seeing in the accomplish- 
ment only a manifestation of human power will not keep him 
for all that from being the unwitting instrument of the designs 
of Providence. 

A second aspect of man in the biblical conception is his bond 
with other people. That is what the Bible tells us: It is not 
good for man to be alone. And therefore God created Eve. 
It is noteworthy that in the second account of the creation of 
man, the one in Chapter II of Genesis, the creation of Eve is 
not put in relation with the problem of the perpetuation of 
the species, but in relation with the fact that it is not good 
that man should be alone. This shows that it is of the essence 
of human nature to enter into communion, which is to say that 
man is not made for solitude, but designed to share what he has 
with others. Of this, human love seems to be the pre-eminent 
expression yet the pre-eminent one only. All human relation- 
ships are expressions of this basically social nature of man. 

Granted all this, biblical man does have a third dimension. 
And that dimension is adoration. Man was created in the 
image of God, which is to say that, for one, he masters the 
world which is inferior to him; that, for another, he is to be in 
communion with his fellow-creatures, who are his equals; but 
that, finally, he must acknowledge the transcendence of what 
surpasses him. On one very fine page, Romano Guardini shows 
that the Bible rhythmically distributes man's life between work 
and adoration, with six days given him to master the world, and 

Truth and the Individual 145 

a seventh day given him to acknowledge the sovereignty of 

That is constitutive of the very being of man. For us, man 
is someone who receives himself from God and not only by 
some what shall we say? some initial twist of the wrist, but in 
a here-and-now relationship. At this moment, as I move my 
hand to write another word, I exist only inasmuch as God gives 
me to myself, and, so, for me, to exist is to be in relationship 
with Another; to be is to be two. Man's pretension to self- 
sufficiency, which is the basis of a certain existentialism, is an 
illusion. From the point of view of the Bible, it is in recog- 
nizing his dependence on God that he sees aright. 

This relationship with God does not represent some kind of 
accessory truth, fitted on to a humanism which could exist 
substantially apart from it, but is constitutive of man as such. 
Hence a man who refuses to consider it, a man without 
adoration, is mutilated in his person. When we raise our voice 
today against every sort of atheistic humanism, whether this 
be marxist humanism or liberal humanism, it is not simply God 
that we are defending, but man himself. A man without God is 
not fully human. I am surprised that Christians are not better 
aware of the human stake in what they are defending. 

The error of certain Christians has been to believe that work 
in the social field is enough for the fulfilment of their Christian 
duty. It is absolutely insufficient, for love of neighbor does not 
exhaust the Christian vocation; love of God is also an essential 
in it The duty, hence, to work to maintain the presence of 
God in the midst of the world that is abuilding, in the universe 
of applied science, is plainly Christians' most essential task. 
This world, in its technological aspect, might strictly speaking 
be constructed without them. After all, engineers are being 
turned out like sausages in the "people's democracies," and 


chances are good that shortages tomorrow will not lie in that 
direction. The short supply that may well cause the pinch in 
machine civilization tomorrow will be in adoration. 

I must make clear that this is not just a part of the indi- 
vidual's makeup, but of collective civilization. A city where 
you would look up and see only factory chimneys, and never 
a church spire, would be a hell. And we may ask ourselves 
whether, today, service to civilization may not lie even more, 
for a boy or girl, in going to the seminary or entering a convent 
than in going to work in a laboratory. And I mean from the 
simple point of view of tomorrow's civilization and of social 
service. For, once again, without adoration human society 
becomes a world where we gasp for breath. And that, in 
truth, is the menace that overhangs the world today. 

These thoughts bring me to the painful one of how well man 
today acquits himself in one department of his vocation, the 
technological, but how inefficient he is in that other department, 
adoration. But dissociate the two, and where is your humanism? 
And here perhaps we touch upon one of the greatest tragedies 
of the world of today. What has made the West is surely not 
skin-color! There are no such things as superior races. The 
West owes its superiority to two things: scientific invention 
and Christianity. The tragedy of our day lies in the fact that the 
West has given the world its science without giving it its 
Christianity. But separated from Christianity, science is a 
deadly gift. Of this we are only too well aware. In giving this 
instrument to the world without giving it Christianity, we are 
giving it an instrument which it may not improbably some day 
use to serve ends no longer those of the real service of humanity. 

But all this was on the theoretical plane. The practical 
problem is perhaps more difficult. From what I have just said, 

Truth and the Individual 147 

we may be convinced; it is always important to be convinced, 
for conviction is an essential element for action; we act with 
joy when we are really convinced, whereas uncertainty para- 
lyzes us. But it remains none the less that action does pose 
problems for us, that as a matter of fact we do find our lives 
divided between the demands of terrestrial duties (duties every 
day more heavy, be they those of family or of professional life) 
and God's call in our ears to stay in contact and in union with 
him. The problem presented here is to fit our earthly duties 
into our religious faith, to acquire a religious sense of our work 
in the world. Does all that I am doing make any sense? Or, 
after all, when it comes down to it, is it not a disguised dis- 
traction from what ought to be my real occupation: praying, 
keeping myself close to God, remaining free for spiritual 

The number one thing, then, is the fitting of our work in the 
world into our faith. In what way can such work be the 
expression of our faith? Oh, it is easy to see how it may be so 
in some lines. Family life is one of these. It is clear enough 
that the duties of the mother of a family, the bringing up of 
children, will consciously be the expression of a divine mission 
intrusted her by God, the accomplishment of an assignment 
carried out under his eyes. Again, the laws expressing God's 
will regarding human love, in all that concerns life in our 
homes, are normally known to us. Many a problem can arise 
today in this area. And yet such problems lie within a whole 
situation whose import seems evident to us. 

Things become a good deal more difficult when it comes to 
professional life, to political life, and to international life. 
Here, the union of the two domains of faith and work in the 
world is much less clear. It may be wondered whether one of 
the principal shortcomings of contemporary Christianity has 


not been failure to make clear how what I shall call collective 
charity fits in with Christian life. I shall explain what I mean. 

It is certain that one of the main features of the contemporary 
world is the fact that the expression of charity is no longer only 
individual. One cannot acquit one's self today of the duty of 
charity by dropping a coin into a blind man's cup or giving a 
sandwich to a tramp at the back door. In reality, charity is 
institutionalized, as we know, and practically it is on the level 
of our participation in institutional life that we are of effective 
service to others. One of the forms of charity is seeing to it 
that people have a home. Now it is plain that the answer to 
this problem does not consist in offering our den or a couch and 
some blankets to whoever comes in off the street. It consists 
in trying to work to solve the housing problem efficiently in its 
own sphere, and this naturally involves procedures of a nature 
not individual at all, but collective. 

Charity operates more and more on this level. Now, it is 
extremely difficult for many Christians to make the connection 
between their Christian life and these different forms of 
activity, or indeed to see how these come from any requirement 
of Christianity in the first place. If I conduct my business, if 
I make it to the voting booth, does this kind of thing really 
correspond to any requirements o my Christianity? It seems 
more likely that I do them, say, to have something to do, or to 
make money. The matter is a serious one, for I am liable to 
set up two absolutely different departments in my life. In the 
one, everything relating to business life, to political activity, and 
so forth; in the other, a certain amount of practice of Christi- 
anity. I have to see, then, to what extent the former can stem 
in me basically, by being connected with the foundation of 
my existence, from the requirements of the Christianity I 

Truth and the Individual 149 

I should say that there are really three questions here. The 
first is the most clear cut. It is that my taking part in the 
workaday world is my fulfilment of a duty is obedience, that 
is, to God, who requires my service to society. I recall having 
had this point wonderfully well cleared up for me by my 
reading of a contemporary Jewish philosopher, A. Neher. In 
a very fine book on the theology of the Covenant, he shows that, 
in the Old Testament, the prophets were continually imbroiled 
in political life. This is one of the biggest differences between 
the Old and New Testaments. In the New Testament Our 
Lord did absolutely no meddling in political problems. In the 
Old Testament, the prophets talked of nothing else. But Neher 
goes on to show that this did not come from the fact that as 
Renan said, and as Marx said after him the prophets were the 
voice in ancient societies of the struggle of the oppressed classes 
against the ownership classes. 

In reality, for the prophets, political combat did not arise out 
of the class struggle, out of the revolt, that is, of the oppressed 
class against the oppressor class, but out of fidelity to the 
Covenant. The prophet's duty is to recall God's law to society 
as against all the infidelities which men are perpetually intro- 
ducing into it. This duty, then, is to work to bring about the 
reign of justice, but justice in the biblical sense of the word, 
which is to say the law of God, which implies not only the 
establishment of just relationships among men, but also the 
recognition of the rights of God. Here we find under a new 
aspect the religious dimension of man's life. 

There is in the second place the problem, and it is much 
more difficult, of the concrete expressions of this divine law. 
This is often the problem proposed in fact by Christians who do 
desire to serve in the social or political field, but who find that 
the Church at this moment leaves them strangely to themselves, 


being satisfied with furnishing some general views, without 
entering into the details of specific duties. To this one may 
reply first of all that what our world most lacks is precisely 
this reference to a conception of man, which is what the Church 
supplies by never ceasing to emphasize that there is such a thing 
as human nature. There are therefore laws of human love, of 
professional society, of political society which constitute the 
order established by God, to which every society must conform 
in order to be sound. 

What constitutes the soundness of this natural order, so 
much disregarded by contemporary thought, but the importance 
of which we are increasingly rediscovering, is the fact that it is 
God's thought regarding man. We cannot, as so many men 
today think we can, make anything we like out of man. Man 
is not the creation of man, as Marx or Sartre have thought; we 
are not called on to invent a type of humanity; that has already 
been supplied, and what we have to do is to help bring it to 

If that is settled, there remains the task, which is precisely 
that of laypeople, to apply this divine vision of man and of his 
destiny to particular concrete situations. Here is where there 
comes in that spirit of invention of which Jean Lacroix once 
spoke, or, to use a contemporary expression, what Gaston 
Berger called prospective, which consists in perpetually adapt- 
ing the condition of man to the progress of technology. This is 
the great contemporary problem. For technology progresses, 
but it is indispensable to adapt its progress to human problems, 
without which adaptation technology will end by crushing man. 
Here, then, are admirable tasks, consisting in seeing to it that 
this creation of society is conformable to the laws of God. 

There is another aspect of the presence of Christians in 
workaday undertakings. Up to this point, we have been talking 

Truth and the Individual 151 

above all about human nature in general, and of human nature 
constituted in part by its relationship to God. But it is obvious 
that in Christianity there is something more. In Christ there is 
revealed to us the final page of our destiny, which is not simply 
an earthly destiny. The uncreated Word of God himself came 
to seize upon our fragile human constitution to raise it up to 
the Father and to plunge it into the abysses of the life proper 
to him. Pascal said: "We know ourselves only through Jesus 
Christ." And true enough, it is only in Jesus Christ that there 
is revealed fully to us the mystery which we ourselves constitute. 

Here, then, there is something more, which is not simply of 
the order of natural laws. The task of the Christian as regards 
earthly realities is to consecrate them that is, to supply them 
with that ambient of grace within which alone they can reach 
their full development, finding in it health for their wounds 
and growth for their powers. This comes about through the 
sacraments. But the specific task of the laic in the Church is to 
be the agent who in a certain fashion turns upon the things of 
earth what is received by the grace of Christ. The function of 
the priest is to transmit this grace. And the function of the 
laic is to cause it to penetrate into all human things. This 
begins with the sacrament of marriage. It is in the climate of 
the grace of matrimony that human love, the love of man and 
woman, the love of children, has attained in its own line its 
finest delicacies and its greatest depths. 

The same thing is true of other domains. It is in Christian 
grace that the human intelligence has reached its highest 
peaks. The more one studies the philosophy of India, the 
philosophy of ancient Greece, the thought of Islam, the more 
one is persuaded that, if it is in our West alone that certain 
truths have been attained, this is, as Gilson believes, because 
human reason has been aided by the grace of Christ's revelation 


without, and by the vivifying energies of the faith within. We 
need find this no source of pride, for it is not due to the quality 
of the Western mind, but to the fact that up to the present only 
in the West has intelligence been long bathed in the climate 
of grace. And in the measure that grace withdraws from the 
intelligence of the West, to that degree the West slips back into 
confusion of mind. It is one of the marvels of the grace of 
Christ that it draws human realities themselves in their own 
line to their natural perfection, independently of what it adds 
to them, by bringing them to surpass themselves. 

I shall take another example. One of the things that most 
preoccupy me today is a certain abandonment of the treasure 
of Christian mores accumulated through the centuries of faith 
and formerly penetrating all of family life, social life, and in 
certain regards professional life. They were the result of a 
long and difficult conquest. We have the impression that today 
these shall we call them Christian manners? are in the 
process of being lost. For this reason I think there is no more 
magnificent undertaking, and especially for Christian women, 
than to work to re-establish ambients of Christian life. Human 
love, human understanding, and human work would find there, 
too, their full dignity and meaning. 

But we must go further than all this. For if we stopped at 
what has been said so far, the question posed at the beginning 
of the chapter would remain unanswered: God would still be 
there on one side, and our work in the world on the other, 
whereas the problem is to determine whether we may not go 
to God through that work in the world. That is the question 
lying beneath all questions. I mean by this that if one could 
pot approach God save apart from the workaday world, if 
work in the world were an obstacle to this approach, why then 

Truth and the Individual 153 

the situation we should face would be absurd. While God 
made us for himself, we should be spending our lives doing 
things that turned us away from him. The Creation would have 
been managed all wrong. And, in fact, do we not sometimes 
get the impression that things are all awry? Do we not feel 
that an incompatibility between the occupations which absorb 
us and a life of union with God does exist? So long as we 
reason thus, we are certainly in error. If there is one thing 
certain, it is that it is in our lives, just as they are, that we have 
to find God. 

There is only one problem. Just one. And the problem is this 
one. All things were made to lead us to God. As a matter 
of fact, though, most things turn us away from him. The only 
puzzle to be solved is to make the things which turn us away 
from God become means to lead us to him. The whole question 
is right there. It is we, by the bad use we make of things, who 
render them blockades between him and us. There is therefore 
no other problem than to transform these very same things, the 
things that make up our daily lives, from obstacles into means. 
The whole of the spiritual life consists in nothing more nor 
less than this. The whole road of spiritual progress lies between 
the point where things are obstacles to the point where they 
have become means. And it is there, then, that our temporal 
activities, our work in the world, become the very material, we 
might say, for our practice of the spiritual life means for 
going towards God. At that moment, we shall have caught on 
to the unity of our life. A day that can be spent in the most 
total banality, taken up by the purely human aspects of work, 
and bringing me in the evening only a kind of frightful void 
it is up to me to transfigure it by a miracle of the heart and to 
invest it with a kind of incorruptible substance. 

We must here push aside false problems and false pretexts. 


We must rise above the level of purely intellectual difficulties. 
We must attain the real substance of the question. The truth 
about reality is the fact that our being is oriented towards God 
and must, on the level of awareness, make him out in and 
through all things. He lies hidden everywhere in our lives. 
We simply fail to discover him. I think of Peter Favre, the 
companion of St. Ignatius who had the marvelous gift of 
making all things, as he said, modes of prayer. "When you 
passed through mountains, fields, vineyards, modes of prayer 
presented themselves to you, consisting in asking for the growth 
and perfection of these resources. You gave thanks in the 
name of the owners, and asked pardon for those who failed to 
give thanks in spirit for these good things." There you have 
modes of prayer for a traveler. We can so easily allow our 
minds to wander here among useless and vain things, put down 
and pick up interminably a magazine or newspaper until we 
have read it through to the last want ad, and realize that we 
have passed our time stupidly. St. Ignatius' companion, in 
contrast, made the landscapes that passed before his eyes into 
modes of prayer. 

This is where everything finally leads. Well we know 
that words and formulas are vain if they fail to reach the 
realm of conversion of heart and interior experience. Some- 
times we are captivated by the ideas of those Hindus who 
seem to us to possess the secrets of I know not what arcane 
wisdom. But why search so far away, beyond the seas, when 
that wisdom is at our door when it is, after all, up to us to 
find this peace. And this not in some kind of slipping away 
from our earthly tasks, but simply in a new view which we 
bring to bear upon them, the reflection that we have received 
them from God and are bearing them back to him. There is no 
other secret of existence; and this secret lies within our grasp. 

by Jeremiah Newma i 

If he is to gain his present TL; 
within the Church, the lay: 
understand his present in term- > 
past. What "has been the role oi 
layman in the Church during the 
ous stages of its development? \ 
are the implications of these histoj 
facts for a modern theology? 
what novel elements exist in the f 
ent situation to compel the mot 
theologian to revise the earlier ii 
about the role of the layman in 

These are the questions Father ]N 
man sets for himself as he underte 
both the historical survey and 
theological scrutiny which arises fi 
it. The result is a significant first s 
in a discussion chat will occupy 
Church for the rest cf this centu 

edited by J. Stanley Murphy, C.S.B. 

Chosen for the "Best in Cathc 
Reading" list of the Catholic Libn 
Association in 1961, this series of 
flections on the meaning and pos 
bility of a Christian culture incluc 
such distinguished contributors